Cities risk electing "celebrity-style mayors" who have no real understanding of the powers and functions of the role unless the Government ensures there is a genuine public debate on its plan for directly elected mayors.
Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan warned "the wrong people" could be elected to the key roles unless the reason for the position is clearly set just months before an expected plebiscite on the issue this summer.
During a Dáil debate, Minister of State John Paul Phelan said he will explain what powers the potential new mayors system will have in three weeks' time. Ms O'Sullivan said the onus is on the Government to instigate a real public debate.
She said unless the proposed new powers and functions are fully explained there is a risk cities like Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Galway will elect people who are not suitable for the role.
"We do need the conversation. The Minister of State needs to find a way, be it through town hall-style meetings or otherwise, to have a general debate so people will understand what the matter is about.
"I said in the debate before Christmas that we do not know what the functions will be.
"If we only get the information out on what the functions and powers are close to the vote, there will not be time for a public debate.
"We need somebody who can take the responsibility. It is not just about powers; it is about responsibility," she said.
The potential decision to allow cities to directly elect their mayors is designed to give the public more control over who represents their areas, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirming last September a plebiscite is likely in May.