Four environmental groups have united to back the creation of a directly-elected mayor in Cork amid calls last night for the plebiscite to the scrapped.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Terry Shannon blasted the government for its handling of the information campaign around the May 24 poll and said such is the uncertainty around what’s being proposed, the vote should be shelved.
The reaction to this proposal on the doorsteps in Cork city has been a mix of confusion over the role, criticism over the €130,000 salary, and concern about who will have to pay the estimated €500,000 annual costs of the office, he said.
“We were promised we’d have information leaflets a month before the vote and here we are now, less than two weeks out from the plebiscite, and we haven’t seen anything,” he said.
It’s time now for them to scrap the plebiscite, to flesh this proposal out further and give the people of Cork a citizens assembly to consider the issue, as they are doing in Dublin
People in Cork city, Limerick and Waterford will be asked on May 24 - the same day as the local and European elections - whether or not they favour the introduction of a directly-elected mayor with executive powers. A citizens assembly will be established in Dublin later to consider the question.
If there is a yes vote, legislation will be required before the first directly-elected mayoral elections in 2021.
But the debate has been dominated by the salary and uncertainty over the funding of the role. Minister for Local Government, John Paul Phelan, has said a €10m local government reform fund will cover any additional costs associated with the role.
But Mr Shannon said the official voter information leaflets say the local authorities themselves will have to bear the costs.
“And if the role doesn’t have financial independence from government, then it isn’t independent,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Cork Environmental Forum, Cork Climate Action, Cork Trees Trust and Cork Cycling Campaign united yesterday to call for yes vote.
They said the cities of tomorrow need strong political leadership and that an elected mayor would be a leading voice at local and national levels.
“We need a strong mayor who is responsible and accountable for handling Cork’s growing population, for housing everyone in energy efficient buildings, for delivering efficient and attractive transport options, and for providing high-quality parks and green spaces for our residents and wildlife,” they said.
“Cork needs a clear and coherent vision to develop a sustainable and liveable city that delivers an exceptional quality of life for everyone. At present, Cork cannot articulate and deliver this vision because no power and funding is devolved to a local level. The city council cannot even put in a pedestrian crossing or shift a bus stop without getting permission and funding from Dublin.”
They said a strong mayor could also drive big projects such as the event centre, Tramore Valley Park, the Marina Park, and the Lee-to-Sea Greenway.
The Committee to Oversee the Plebiscite Public Information Campaign will hold a series of public information meetings about the plebiscites in Cork’s City Hall next Tuesday at 7.30pm, in the Tower Hotel, Waterford at 7.30pm on Wednesday, and at UL, Limerick at 7.30pm on Thursday.