We will know the size of John Gormley’s cojones soon when he gives details on what powers Dublin much ballyhooed (Love that word.) directly elected mayor will have.
Sure, we’ll have the usual “powers of consultancy” and the “right” to sit on or even chair committees, but let us be clear: Only one power will matter. If the mayor cannot overrule the city manager, and direct the city manager to do something, then the job is not worth having.
This is where Gormley is going to have his work cut out, because senior civil servants and their Fianna Fail playthings do not want an elected mayor with power, for two reasons. The first is quite noble: They believe that some counties will elect yahoos who will thrash the gaff, and will overrule professional city and county managers for spurious political reasons, and make dumb short term decisions. They’re probably right, and that’s the point. We can’t keep trying to protect the Irish people from their own stupidity. Let them elect a few clowns, and when the people of county X discover that the fella they elected mayor because he was great at the hurlin’ is a spanner, then maybe they’ll pay more attention at the next election.
Fianna Fail isn’t too hot on it because it reckons, especially in the current climate, that nearly all the elected mayors will be won by opposition candidates, giving them real power in their counties and turning them into automatic star candidates for the next general election. This is also probably true, but it misses a point. If you are elected to a 5 year term as Mayor of Galway or Cork, it might actually be a bit of a comedown to become a backbencher. Secondly, there are a lot of political types who might rather be Mayor of Kerry (Jackie Healy-Rae) or South Dublin (Charlie O’Connor) instead of traipsing into the Dail all the time. And don’t forget that Fianna Failers are most terrified not by the opposition but by their own people. Most FF TDs spend their time sweating about some young FF bucko coming up the ranks behind them, and a shiny new mayor in the home county is just the sort of thing to fill their trousers.
For me, this is a make or break issue for the Greens. If they agree to the FF watered down “elected figurehead” model, then f**k them. They’ll have gone native and deserve a good electoral kicking. As Labour and the PDs (May cherubs carry them to their resting place in heaven) discovered, getting on with FF in government is not always a recipe for reward at election time. Sometimes, you have to do a Des O’Malley, and stand up to the bastards.