* To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to hold further plebiscites in relation to directly elected mayors in Waterford and Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien T.D.
I welcome the decision by the people of the Limerick City and County Council area, in the plebiscite held on 24 May 2019, to support the Government's proposals for a directly elected mayor with executive functions for their area. It is now my intention to deliver on the will of the people of Limerick without delay. Significant work on the proposal has already been carried out in the form of the published document "Directly Elected Mayors with Executive Functions: Detailed Policy Proposals" approved by the Government on 20 March 2019.
Under Section 44 of the Local Government Act 2019, the Minister is now required to prepare and submit to the Houses of the Oireachtas a report with legislative proposals for a directly elected mayor for Limerick. There is a further significant piece of work required to systematically analyse all legislation conferring functions and powers on local authority chief executives and this will involve consultation with key stakeholders.
Under the Act, the Report and legislative proposals must be submitted by 24 May 2021, two years after the plebiscite vote. However, I have asked my Department to prioritise this work with a view to bringing the Report and legislative proposals forward at the earliest opportunity.
Under the Government's proposal, a full 5 year term of office for the directly elected mayor with executive functions is envisaged, with elections taking place with local elections. However, a possible election date in 2022 was identified for the first directly elected mayor, with a consequently shorter first term envisaged up to the next local elections in 2024.
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.
The people of Cork City and Waterford City and County narrowly rejected the Government's proposals in the recent plebiscites in those local authority areas, and I fully respect the outcome of the votes there. In accordance with the legislation, the priority now is on delivering the mandate given by the people of Limerick.
In relation to Dublin, work is underway in the Department of the Taoiseach on proposals for the establishment of a new Citizens’ Assembly to consider a number of issues, including the issue of a directly elected mayor for Dublin and the form that this should take. The function of a Citizens’ Assembly is to inform the public and increase overall awareness of topics being examined. Consideration is being given to the parameters of this and other topics and how best to optimise the use of an Assembly’s time and the taxpayers money. Proposals are expected to come before Government shortly.
Finally, in relation to Galway, as provisions enabling the amalgamation of Galway City and County Councils and the holding of a plebiscite on a directly elected mayor for Galway included in the Local Government Bill were not passed by the Oireachtas, a plebiscite did not proceed there last month. My Department is now working with the two local authorities to consider and recalibrate the local government modernisation programme in Galway in light of the passage of the Bill.
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