Limerick City and County voters could cast ballots for directly-elected mayor ahead of schedule

John Paul Phelan, the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Voters in Limerick City and County could be casting their ballots for their first directly-elected mayor in 2021, a year ahead of schedule.

John Paul Phelan, the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government with special responsibility for Local Government and Electoral Reform, said that his department is pressing ahead with the necessary legislation as a matter of priority, potentially fast-tracking the creation of the position.

The plebiscite to create the position of directly elected mayor passed in Limerick City and County by 52%. Votes held on the same day in Cork City and Waterford City and County both failed by fewer than 1,000 votes.

Responding to a question from Limerick TD Niall Collins, Mr Phelan said that "a further significant piece of work" is required to analyse "all legislation conferring functions and powers on local authority chief executives and this will involve consultation with key stakeholders".

Mr Phelan said he has asked his department to prioritise this work.

Under the initial proposals issued prior to the plebiscite, the directly elected mayor would serve for five years and it was proposed that the first election would take place in 2022. This person would serve until the local elections in 2024, after which mayors would serve for five years.

However, Mr Phelan has now indicated that he is looking to move quicker on this.

"In the expectation that the preparatory work can be carried out and the legislative process is prioritised in the Oireachtas, the first election for mayor could take place in Limerick City and County Council in 2021," he said.

He said he "fully respects" the result of the vote in Cork City and Waterford City and County, which narrowly rejected the proposals.

"In accordance with the legislation, the priority now is on delivering the mandate given by the people of Limerick," he said.

Mr Phelan also said that the Department of the Taoiseach is working on proposals for a Citizens' Assembly to consider the issue of a directly elected mayor for Dublin.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has again criticised Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, claiming that the plebiscite failed in Cork as Mr Martin did not support it.

Mr Varadkar said Mr Martin wanted it to fail "because he hoped it would the Government look bad".

Mr Martin said: "Nowhere near enough information was provided on the practical details of what was being proposed.

"I pointed this out to the Taoiseach two or three months before the plebiscite.

"It sums up the hyper-partisan nature of this Government that the Minister responsible has stated repeatedly that his failure is the fault of the Opposition. His objective seems to have been to squeeze out a win rather than obtain wide legitimacy."

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