Fine Gael general election candidate Pa O’Driscoll has welcomed the decision of the government to hold plebiscites on whether to introduce directly elected mayors for Cork City, Limerick City and County, Waterford City and County and Galway City and County. The plebiscites will be held on the same day as the local elections in May 2019.
Local government needs to be strengthened. The last two decades has seen an erosion of the role of local government, with more and more powers being taken from local authorities by central government. There has been plenty of talk about reforming and strengthening local government, but very little has been achieved.
Making reference to the local authority systems in the UK and on the continent O’Driscoll stated that the experience of other countries is that where directly elected mayors are introduced, they are successful when given powers to make decisions, generally in cooperation with the elected council. Where the powers are limited by the central government, these mayors become token or ceremonial figures. That is not what should happen in Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford, if the people of these cities choose to have a directly elected mayor. Local government can play an important role in the delivery of many services at a local level – we should be willing to expand rather than limit that role.