Directly-elected Mayors may finally break the local logjam

World of Politics with Harry McGee

There have been moments in the past when the Mayor of Galway has made national headlines – and for vastly disparate reasons. But each offers an insight into the role of a First Citizen.

Paddy Ryan welcomed John F Kennedy the US President made his famous visit to Galway in 1963. Bridie O’Flaherty gave the Ska band Bad Manners huge publicity in the early 1980s by objecting to their gig in Leisureland and lambasting their lead singer Buster Bloodvessel. It guaranteed a sell-out! More recently, Mike Cubbard, had to speak out after his own family were subjected to threats because of his office.

It’s an important role. For anyone who is elected to the position by their fellow councillors, it’s a huge honour for them and for their families. But when it comes to exerting any power, forget about it.

All mayoral positions in Ireland (including those of Lord Mayor in Dublin) are ceremonial and symbolic. The hole of the office can bring influence and political nous to bear but they can’t make the kind of decisions that will influence the direction of the city.

All that is going to change – or begin to change at least – from next year.

Not for Galway just yet, but if it works elsewhere, at some stage in the next decade Galway will have its own directly-elected mayor.

Limerick will be the test case because its citizens will vote for its first directly-elected mayor at the same time as the local and European elections next year.

The position carries a big salary, over €130,000 and the powers will be extensive.

The Bill to allow for the direct elections has been approved by the Government. I presume it will be introduced to the Dáil during the autumn session and, if approved by the Oireachtas, will be enacted by the end of the year, paving the way for the historic first in June 2024.

Pictured: Golden days…the then-Mayor of Galway Paddy Ryan with President John F Kennedy in 1963.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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