Group campaigning for directly-elected Cork mayor call for urgent public information events

Current Lord Mayor of Cork, Mick Finn.

The group campaigning for a directly-elected mayor in Cork has called for urgent public information events on the proposal amid concerns that people may vote against it in May because they don’t know enough about it.

The Cork Mayor Campaign said with just 65 days to a plebiscite on the proposal for the soon-to-be-enlarged city, too many questions still remain unanswered about the nature of the new role and the powers the office holder may wield.

People will be asked to vote on May 24 - the same day as the local and European elections - on whether or not they favour the introduction of directly-elected mayors in Cork city, Limerick and Waterford City. A citizens assembly will be established in Dublin to consider the question.

The Cork Mayor Campaign group has now called on Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan, to publish draft legislation on the proposal and to engage the public in information nights “as a matter of urgency”.

The group has sent him a report, arising from a public workshop it held earlier this month, supporting the concept but outlining concerns about the outstanding questions such as the relationship between the proposed mayor, city officials and the elected councillor.

There was a consensus at the meeting that the new directly-elected mayor would need significant, but not total powers, over the local authority’s budget, and that striking the balance between the mayor’s powers and the existing council chief executive would be vital.

A salary of €100,000 was also considered appropriate to attract the right candidates.

But above all, the group said with just over two months to the plebiscite, the government must publish the details soon.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he expects Cabinet to be briefed on the proposals within two weeks.

Seanad leader, Jerry Buttimer, accepted that many questions have yet to be addressed.

“I fully recognise that Government must publish, in depth, the role, power, functions, resources, and terms of the position to so as to inform people fully of what the job entails. I expect this to happen shortly,” he said.

“There is ample time to inform and campaign but we cannot be complacent and assume it is going to pass. It is imperative that we put in place a series of information meetings across Cork as part of the advancement of the case and I have invited Minister Phelan to Cork to engage on this crucial vote,” he said.

I believe this is an exciting time for Cork as we are in the midst of the most radical overhaul of local government in the history of the city.

Speaking in January, Minister Phelan said he had hoped to bring detailed proposals on the position to the Government “in the coming weeks”.

He said at the time that the new mayor would be an ex officio member of the elected council, continuing to perform the functions currently exercised by local authority cathaoirligh, mayors and lord mayors, including reserved functions, but would also encompass a civic and representational role.

He said given the wide range of functions performed by local authorities, the new mayor’s role would have to be supported by a chief executive officer, and that the relationship between the two would be similar to that between a government minister and the secretary general of a government department.

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