The direct election of a new mayor of Limerick could happen as early as October after the Government signed off on the priority drafting of the legislation which will establish the role.
Peter Burke, junior minister at the Department of Housing, brought the legislation to Cabinet on Tuesday and said it would allow the election to take place in the third quarter of 2021 "if the situation allows".
Cabinet sources say that timescale is ambitious, but that it is the
Government's intention to hold the election "as soon as possible".
“This important decision brings us another step closer to the people of Limerick being able to elect their own mayor”, he said.
The mayor will have what has been called "significant" powers over housing, roads, building, and the strategic management of the city and county and will be paid a junior minister's wage of €137,000.
Mr Burke said that the updated legislation included a provision for the mayor to lead the implementation of major projects in Limerick.
“I welcome the fact that Government also approved my proposals to include a number of specific new functions and responsibilities in the legislation, including provisions requiring the mayor to lead a local board to advance the implementation of Project Ireland 2040 in the Limerick city region and convene a rural board to examine all aspects of rural life in Limerick, as well as permitting the mayor to convene stakeholders on matters affecting Limerick. Provisions setting out a detailed mechanism for the removal of the mayor are also included."
Asked later at the Oireachtas housing committee about a similar move in Dublin, Mr Burke said the Limerick move was the "most wide-ranging reform of local government since the foundation of the State".
He said that the citizens' assembly will discuss Dublin's situation and that the legislation will allow for plebiscites in 2024 for other cities or counties. He said that the Government's priority was "to get Limerick right".
Cabinet also agreed to nominate Mr Justice Gerard Hogan for appointment as an ordinary judge to the Supreme Court by the President.
The vacancy arose following the appointment of Ms Justice Mary Irvine as president of the High Court last June.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee asked the Government to note the establishment of a judicial planning working group to consider the number of judges — and type of judges — required over the next five years.
It will be chaired by Brigid McManus, former secretary general of the Department of Education, with input from across the Government.
A research project will examine the number of judges Ireland needs, as well as where they should be based. This research, to be carried out by the OECD, is likely to be completed by December.
Ms McEntee also asked the Cabinet to agree to increase the number of ordinary judges of the High Court by five in the near term. This is deemed necessary due to a backlog in cases due to Covid-19.
A bill brought by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on behalf of junior enterprise minister Damien English will address a recent judgment by the Supreme Court on the working of the Workplace Relations Commission.
It provides for hearings to be conducted in public and removes the automatic anonymisation of parties in the published decisions.