A Fair Deal for Dublin | Cassandra Voices

A Fair Deal for Dublin


The following is a submission to the Citizens Assembly on Dublin by a former Lord Mayor of Dublin Dermot Lacey, who argues for a new regional approach to Dublin that would include provision for a directly elected mayor with real power and responsibility for the whole city.

Image © Daniele Idini.

Regional and Local Government – the other norm

Throughout the developed world Regional and Local Government is taking its rightful place at the heart of sustainable decision making. From the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland and Welsh Assemblies in the United Kingdom, to the Federal Parliaments in Germany, the Cantons in Switzerland local-relevant decision-making is growing. One of the founding principles of the European Union is subsidiarity – however that particular guiding principle seems to have been lost somewhere in the Irish Sea.

Here in the Republic of Ireland, with a nod to European Union objectives but a more stellar eye on European money we have invented three new Regional Assemblies; the Southern Regional Assembly, the Northern and Western Regional Assembly and here on the east coast and adjacent counties the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly.

Comprised of Councillors from twelve Local Authorities this artificial construct has no real power, no funds, no democratic mandate and Government ignores it at their pleasure.  Meanwhile Dublin the only City Region by real international standards and the economic powerhouse of the State is deprived of any co-ordinating body covering the full County. Without such a co-ordinating body, without a Regional Authority for the Dublin area with power and resources Ireland is the principal loser. So, what do I want for Dublin? But then again What Dublin do we mean when we refer to it?

Image © Daniele Idini

The Fair City

Dublin is often described as the ‘Fair City’ – but is it? Is it a city that treats its people equally? Is it fairly run? Does it treat all its citizens fairly? Does it protect its culture, heritage and environment fairly and sensibly? Is it a democratic city? Is democracy necessary? Or is democratic consultation and decision making central to the future of Dublin. Does any of this matter?

The answer, of course, is that yes, it does matter – or at least it matters to me. Dublin is my home. It always has been and I hope, it always will be. It was and will again, be one of the finest cities of Europe. It is a great and beautiful city, ideally located between the scenic natural beauty of the Dublin Mountains and the incredibly clean and majestic Dublin Bay. A Bay that has been so sadly neglected and indeed damaged by decisions taken by unelected Public Servants and in reality, unaccountable Politicians from outside its borders.

It is a city with a great history and culture; a city of literature and with a genuine appreciation for the arts; above all it is a city and county with a resilient people still enthused by the notion of community.

Unlike Margaret Thatcher, Dubliners do believe there is such a thing as society.  This is demonstrated every day of every week in the volume of community work, youth and sports activity and community activism actively engaged in by, and for, Dubliners. Perhaps this has never been expressed so forcibly as it was during the Covid crisis and now in the response to the War in Ukraine.

It is also, however, a city of unnecessary complexity. It is a deeply undemocratic city, with decisions made at a remove from the people of Dublin and, in far too many cases, at a remove from the democratically elected representatives of those people.

It is poorly served by the administrative and governance structures imposed on it by successive national governments. It is scandalously under-funded and under-resourced. It has a confused transport system, unacceptable poverty, inadequate housing and a divided and unequal series of communities. None of this is necessary. We need to imagine a better future for Dublin and we need to create that better future for Dublin.

The tragedy for Dublin and Dubliners is that when times were good and finance available, we had one of the least imaginative, backward looking governments in the history of our state. It is true also that when times were bad and the opportunity for real reform was there that Local Government was set back decades by the pretence of “reform” that was “Putting People First”.

It is why we need a new approach to build a new and better Dublin. It is but one of the many reasons why we need a New Deal for Dublin – a Fair Deal for Dublin. It is also a very clear example of why the model suggested by a few commentators of introducing a Minister for Dublin, is not the answer.

Can we solve Dublin’s problems – yes we can. Can we make it a better place for all – yes we can. Can we have a democratic and inclusive Dublin – yes we can. The pertinent question is how do we achieve at least some of these objectives? How do we make Dublin the inclusive and democratic county that it can be and I want it to be? How do we create our own future for Dublin?

The answer lies in real reform of our local government structures. This should not have had to wait until, as some would have it, the country’s problems are fixed. Local government reform is not an optional extra – it is, in my view, integral to our country’s future. Ireland can be transformed through the reform of local government. We cannot do it any other way. It is not possible to reform our political, economic and public sectors if we do not at the same time reform local government.

In the case of Dublin, my preference would be for a directly elected Mayor and a new Dublin Regional Assembly. In the course of this submission I hope to outline why that is the case.

Image © Daniele Idini.

A Changing County?

While Dublin is a changing city and county, it is a city and county that administratively and politically does not work. The city and county does not work for citizens, for business, for communities, or for Ireland. Despite it being the engine of growth for the economy and the fact that, in a European context, it is the only real city-region in the country, the governance of Dublin has largely been ignored and any real reform avoided since the establishment of the State.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) categorises city regions by their population size and the smallest size considered is 1.5million (OECD Territorial Reviews: Competitive Cities in the Global Economy 2006).

Tinkering with the boundaries in breaking up the old County Councils, thereby reducing the power to seriously drive the region, and a collapse in funding have sadly been the hallmarks of government intervention over the last decade or so. Incompetent interference, followed by inertia, has been the closest thing to positive action from those on ‘the inside’ those really in power.

The legislation introduced by former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, seriously set back local Government in Dublin and abolished the Dublin Regional Authority. While much political comment since has been on his unwise abolition of Town Councils the reality is that it was bad, very bad for Dublin.

Politically it gave more power to bureaucrats, reduced the powers of Councillors, removed a realistic Regional dimension and imposed more work, on more un-asked for Councillors. In doing so the Minister simply compounded the indefensible record of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government – a Department, which one well known commentator, has described as the one Department of State actively hostile to the three nouns in its [then]title, Environment, Heritage and Local government.

Any real reform proposals must provide for a better future for Dublin because a better future for Ireland will in reality be predicated on Dublin sustaining real economic growth and administrative and governmental cohesiveness.

No doubt any serious changes will meet political, departmental and institutional opposition to real reform. For far too long power and authority in Ireland has rested with unaccountable mandarins in government departments and their agents, whether via quasi-independent agencies or through the city and county managers process.

Real change is, however, necessary. Irish people are open to new ideas and new ways of doing business and exercising governance. With courage and vision, and above all a serious commitment to reform from the top, we can have a meaningful, inclusive, democratic and relevant local government system. We can make Dublin work and in turn make our country work.

Image © Daniele Idini..

Reforming the City – Rebuilding the County

Regrettably, what is equally true is that despite all the recent talk of reform, changes to our local government structure hardly featured at all in public debate. Reform of governance at a local level was discussed not at all during recent General Elections. The truth however, in my view, is that is simply impossible to reform our national political and public sectors if we do not start on the ground, in our communities and in the chambers of our city and county councils and the regional authorities.

Before any decisions are taken, or any reforms contemplated, we need agreement on what is meant by local government itself. Quite simply, we need a collective ‘buy in’ on local government. For me, local government is about the delivery of comprehensive public services in a manner required, demanded and agreed to by the local community. It must be about the provision of services, in an accountable and democratic manner, to the people in receipt of, or entitled to, those services. Without these attributes it is neither local nor government. Sadly, here in Ireland, that is the present reality.

Image © Daniele Idini.

A Future for the County?

Bemoaning the plight of local government is also easy. There are library shelves bursting with reports and analysis. I would like to be more positive and constructive. There are others, more capable than I, who can comment on the national situation. I hope they do. I want to concentrate on Dublin. It is a City I had the privilege to serve as Lord Mayor and a county the privilege to serve, as Cathaoirleach of the Dublin Regional Authority and as Cathaoirleach of the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly – the only person to have held the three roles.

In the context of this submission as well as defining local government itself, we need also to define: where and what we mean by Dublin; Is it the City? Is it the County? Is it the Dublin region?; or, as some would have it, is it the larger Metropolitan area?  While there are many reasons to define a new governance area as being the greater Dublin area or, as it has been described, the ‘drive-to-work’ Dublin area, my view is that here in Ireland, rightly or wrongly, local identity is important, loyalty is important and a clear definition of boundary, in a governmental context, is important. In all respects, therefore, I believe we should focus on the traditional County of Dublin.

It is this County of Dublin that needs our focus and attention. It is this area that has been and will again be the engine of our economy. Rebuilding and growing that Dublin will help once again to grow our economy and strengthen our society. It will help Ireland grow and develop. Part of my role as an advocate for Dublin, is to dispense with the old and very outdated argument of ‘Dublin versus the rest’. The reality is that what is good for Dublin is invariably good for Ireland. Our future as a people is intertwined. Dublin is our collective capital.

For Ireland’s sake, Dublin needs to run Dublin. That is the very essence of this argument. The present situation, in which disinterested quangos (largely unaccountable state bodies and often disconnected governmental departments) interfere in the affairs of the county without any appreciable knowledge or sympathy, cannot be allowed to continue. Power and authority currently lies with the unelected and the unaccountable, whilst the elected city and county councillors see powers removed on a near daily basis. Dublin deserves better. Ireland needs better.

The existing situation in which more than 60 bodies have responsibility for traffic is the most obvious example of this. At least nine separate bodies are responsible for Dublin Bay and most absurdly national government appoints the St. Patrick’s Day Festival Committee, which largely, though not exclusively, affects Dublin. There are far more examples than this. Surely this cannot continue into the future.

Image © Daniele Idini.

Dublin Needs a Political Voice

Perhaps, more than anything else, Dublin needs someone who understands how things work, or more accurately, how things do not work, and who will stand up for the city and county. To create that better future that we seek, Dublin needs a spokesperson for the whole community. It needs someone, who can be a political advocate armed with the mandate of direct election. That is why I believe that central to any meaningful reform must be a longer-term Mayor and that direct election would provide the mandate. The Mayor needs to be a champion for Dublin who will market and promote the region internationally and who will stand up for it nationally.

The proposal to have an election for a Mayor of Dublin would give us an opportunity to create that voice. The election campaign itself would provide an opportunity for a collective debate on the future of Dublin.

The visibility and accountability of such an office holder would considerably help inform the public on the choices involved on issues of concern. That is why, with all its imperfections and limited powers, I welcomed the publication by former Minister for the Environment and Local Government, John Gormley of the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill draft legislation in 2010. All political institutions grow and evolve over time, and I believe the implementation of that Bill would have proved no exception.

That legislation clarified some issues. It specified the county as the area involved and provided a new structure for the regional authority. The proposal that the Mayor would chair the authority, to whom he or she would be accountable, was, I believe, a rare defect in the draft legislation.

Similarly the proposal to establish a Regional Development Board was unclear, as was its composition and democratic mandate. Unless the public service agencies are accountable to this body, and not equal participating parties as at present, it would not have worked.

The creation of the proposed Dublin Transport Council was inadequate but a significant step in the right direction. Yes, there were deep flaws and absences from the legislation. There was a real lack of integration of services and roles. There was uncertainty about the relationship with the department and the Minister.

It was however an important start – unfortunately one not taken. While some Political Parties are once again raising the issue and this Citizens Assembly has been established it does seem to me to be a “can kicking” exercise and I am not convinced that the permanent Government will do anything to facilitate it happening. Nevertheless, I believe there is still a need for the debate and for the campaign to continue. It remains an aspiration worth pursuing.

The absence of an independent source of funding was a major flaw in previous proposals and must be addressed whenever a future government is serious about reform.

Many believe that we need more than the simple introduction of a directly elected mayor, and they are right. A new mayor can and must drive further reform and a real debate about the future of Dublin.

Two of the arguments used against the introduction of a directly elected mayor are cost and the issue of ‘celebrity’ candidates. Both are bogus. Properly structured, a newly elected Mayor, working with the Dublin Regional Authority, will see the need for many of the existing agencies reduced and or incorporated into the mayoral structure with significant savings.

On the ‘celebrity’ candidate issue, the answer is simple: we are meant to live in a democracy, so let the people decide. I have great faith that, subject to a fair and balanced media presentation, the electorate will decide intelligently. While not the subject of this essay, it is this issue of media coverage of a campaign – the absence of a fair and informed media on Local government matters – that would concern me most.

This is particularly true of the national broadcasting service – RTÉ – whose understanding and knowledge of local government is virtually non-existent and access to the airwaves is a rare privilege accorded only to a chosen few. Clear guidelines for their coverage of a campaign and debate on the issues would be crucial if genuine progress is to be made.

Image © Daniele Idini.

Facing down the Custom House

It is clear to anyone interested that our current system of local government requires renewal and reform. Clear too is the fact that the various local councils are directed, unofficially, but in reality, by city and county managers, answerable to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the permanent officials therein. It is striking that the term of office for a city and county manager is seven years – which can and usually is extended to ten years and that under our current system the term for a mayor is usually one year. Longevity itself is power.

Understanding that relationship is the key to understanding our present problems and breaking that relationship is the key to resolving them for the future. The proposals in the Labour/Fine Gael Programme for Government to abolish the role of county managers and replace them with ‘Chief Executive Officers’ was executed but the change in title was all that was delivered – not a change in role or powers.

None of this should be taken as a personal reflection on the four very fine public servants, Frank Feely, John Fitzgerald, John Tierney and Owen Keegan with whom I have worked during their terms as Dublin City Manager/Chief Executive. They all served Dublin well. It is the structural and relationship issue and problem that need to be resolved.

I believe that Dublin desperately needs a longer term Mayor who would serve for the full local government term, and a Mayor directly elected by the people who would have the authority and mandate needed to serve for such a term. We also need substantial reform of the structure of the four local authorities in the Dublin city and county areas. Such a Mayor working with the members of the Council and with sufficient powers and resources is needed now more than ever to rescue this city and county from the clutching, incompetent and disinterested control of central government and administration.

Shamefully, the sections of the 2001 Local Government Act, enabling this, courageously and correctly introduced by Minister Noel Dempsey, were reversed by his successor, Minister Martin Cullen.

More shamefully, the Green Party Minister, John Gormley, was thwarted in his efforts to introduce plans for a directly elected mayor and Regional Authority. Even more shamefully was the pretence of reform introduced by Minister Phil Hogan at a time when people were crying out for real reform. It was perhaps the greatest wasted opportunity of all.

Image © Daniele Idini.

A new Model for an old City and County

There are many ways in which real reform could be achieved. I want to propose a simple model that I believe would be in the best interests of the future of Dublin city and county. While there may be debate about the appropriateness of retaining the existing four Dublin local authorities I believe that it is better, for the present, they remain. This would also allow that for a period of five years they would continue to elect their Chairpersons/ (Lord) Mayors in line with current practice.

I propose that the number, jurisdiction and roles of the four existing Local Authorities should be reviewed after a period of five years, or one term of office, of a proposed Dublin Regional Assembly. This period should be used to assess the possibility of introducing a series of genuinely local District Councils – perhaps along the lines of the Municipal District Councils that exist outside Dublin. These would serve populations of approximately 100,000 people each. It would also allow for a timely debate and gradual merging of the roles of Lord Mayor and Mayor. Whilst for many this is an obvious step, I believe that there are distinct roles and we should assess the respective merits of retaining them as separate roles or combining them into one.

Essentially these different roles stem from the unique requirement of the Lord Mayor of the City of Dublin to regularly act as the official host for guests to Dublin and Ireland and often as a sort of unofficial Ambassador for the whole country. There is also the role of Civic Cheer Leader and Ceremonial office holder for appropriate civic occasions. The new role envisaged for a Mayor for Dublin will be more executive and more political. I remain open to persuasion as to which is the best way forward.

Contrary to common perception Ireland has a very low ratio of elected councillor per head of population. The following table gives some idea of the European average. It is worth noting that the UK figures do not take account of the existence of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies. These bodies have respectively: Northern Ireland Assembly 108 members; Scottish Parliament 129 members; and the Welsh Assembly 60 members.

Country Population (m) No. of councils Average population per council     Population per councillor
France   59.6    36,700  1,600   118
Austria   8.2     2,350   3,500   209
Sweden 8.8 310 28,400  256
Germany 83 15,300  5,400   350
Finland 5.2     452 11,500  410
Italy 57.7 8,100   7,100   608
Spain 40 8,100 4,900 610
Belgium 10.3    589 17,500  811
Greece 10.6    1,033   10,300  1,075
Denmark 5.4     275 19,600  1,115
Portugal 10.1    308 32,800  1,131
Netherlands 16 548 29,000  1,555
Ireland 4 114 35,000  2,500
U.K.    59.6    468 127,350 2,603

Source: Hughes, Clancy, Harris and Beetham (2007), Power to the People: Assessing Democracy in Ireland. New Island.

In Dublin the figure is a staggering figure of 12,400 people to each Councillor.

Such District Councils, as I propose, would, over time, replace the existing, South Dublin, Fingal and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councils and Dublin City Council. In order to enhance a sense of local identity and ownership, these Councils should be based on real communities of location and interest. Areas such as Tallaght, Lucan, Swords, Dun Laoghaire and Ballyfermot are obvious possibilities for this. With the increasingly global nature of our world real social cohesion in the future can be best enhanced through the promotion of the local and community awareness.

Pending completion of the overall reform project there is no reason why such pilot town or district councils could not be established at an early stage. Composition of these councils should also be used to create greater equality in terms of councillors and population with the rest of the country and a consequential equalisation of Seanad voting rights if the Seanad is to retain its present form.

I am also suggesting that in order to provide a local/national link that the directly elected mayor would be ex-officio member of Seanad Éireann and that a similar provision be made should directly elected mayors be introduced for the other larger cities. This should be done without increasing the overall membership of Seanad Éireann and could be done in tandem with other proposed reforms of the Seanad.

Image © Daniele Idini.

A Dublin Regional Assembly   

Dublin also needs an over-arching strategic regional approach. In that context I suggest that a new Dublin Regional Assembly be established. Such an assembly would be comprised of about 30 members. This would entail six constituencies electing five members each. In order to ensure best internal regional balance there would be two north-side constituencies, two south-side constituencies and two to the west of the county. This would enable a sufficiently broad based (political and regional) membership to ensure a robust and inclusive assembly.  The assembly would have one committee for each of the policy areas listed in the next section.

An alternative model would be to have three such constituencies, north, south and west with five members each leading to the election of what would effectively be a fifteen-member executive for the county. Each policy area would be overseen by three members of the assembly who would have executive responsibility for the area involved. In this scenario, the overall scrutiny and monitoring role would be provided by members drawn from the four Dublin local authorities on a basis similar to the previous Dublin Regional Authority.

The Leader of the Assembly would be the Directly Elected Mayor of Dublin.

Image © Daniele Idini.

Powers of the Assembly

I am suggesting that the powers and responsibilities of this suggested assembly would be as follows:

1) Land Use Planning and Strategic Development. This would deal with devising strategic planning guidelines and monitoring and planning development across the region. Responsibility would also include implementation of national spatial strategies and economic development.

2) Traffic and Transport Co-ordination. The assembly would be the Dublin Transport Authority and would provide for an accountable and integrated approach to traffic and transport, including responsibility for all public transport, active mobility and taxi provision and regulation in the Dublin region.

3) Social and Affordable Housing. The assembly would replace the existing agencies in the Dublin area and co-ordinate housing provision and allocation across the Dublin Region. It would also have responsibility for developing new initiatives for housing provision and responding to the issue of homelessness.

4) Dublin Bay, Waterways and Mountains. These great assets of the region are presently largely under-appreciated. The Dublin Mountains Partnership initiated by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin County Councils has shown the possibility that does exist with imagination in this area.

5) The Assembly would also have a coordinating and/or monitoring role in relation to county-wide services provided by agencies such as the HSE, Education Training Boards, Enterprise Ireland, tourism development, policing and relations with other regional authorities and relevant bodies. One of the first tasks in this area would be to develop coterminous boundaries for all public service providers in the Dublin region.

Some of the above would be done in conjunction and co-operation with the existing local authorities.

I am also suggesting that the Dublin Regional Assembly would provide a forum to which, and in which, the Dublin Members of the European Parliament could report back and consult on issues of relevance to their work. This would significantly enhance engagement with the European institutions and improve the opportunity for Dublin and Dubliners to engage with and benefit from European Union initiatives.

In addition to the elected Assembly I want to see established a Dublin Civic Forum, comprising representatives of civic society across the county. The forum members would receive no payment and would convene as appropriate to advise the Assembly on matters of relevance.

I have previously suggested that the Dublin Regional Assembly should be based in the old Parliament Building on College Green with the remainder of the building housing an Institute for Dublin Affairs and a much-needed Dublin Museum building on the fantastic work of the Little Museum of Dublin.  The Institute would be a collaborative model drawing on the expertise of the third-level institutes in Dublin and would act as a policy feeder to the Assembly.

The old Parliament building would also be the location for meetings of the Civic Forum. This could all be done in conjunction with other proposals to develop the building as a National Cultural Centre and the creation of a major Public Plaza to the front of the buildings. Transferring ownership of these former Parliament Building might provide some recompense for the €8.5billion pumped into Bank of Ireland and relocating the bank headquarters to Docklands might help the rejuvenation of that area.

There is also much scope for the development of new forms of democratic participation such as citizens’ juries and participative budgeting. These could be facilitated through the Dublin Regional Assembly office and could enable citizens to engage with public service providers in a meaningful way.

Image © Daniele Idini.

Reform Again?

There is a widespread consensus amongst politicians, commentators, academics and the public that we need to reform local government. This is articulated regularly in a general rather than specific sense and is thrown into the wider debate about Political Reform. However, that is where the consensus ends. The promise offered by the optimism of the Better Local Government project initiated by Brendan Howlin TD, and the early enthusiasm of Noel Dempsey TD, were followed by inaction, inertia and, on occasions, outright hostility to democratic local government, by the very ministers and the government department that should have been its champions, reformers and defender.

Of course we need real reform, and of course we need Councillors to take more responsibility. As Lord Mayor of Dublin, in difficult circumstances, I did accept such responsibility in relation to the city budget. Since then the majority in favour of the budget has increased with each passing year.

A directly elected mayor should only be one small – though important – part of a total reform of the failing system of local government. Powers which have been stripped from elected representatives and handed over lock, stock and barrel to city and county managers, effectively, if not officially, answerable to the minister of the day, need to be restored to city and county councillors across the country. If we are truly to build a better future for Dublin and for Ireland, Local government must be the heart that drives that forward.

Image © Daniele Idini.

Paying the Price

The issue of the financing of local government also needs extensive review. Quite simply there is no real governance role without independent finance raising responsibilities. There must be a clear link between local spending and local revenue and the accountability of the councillor. The successful operation of the BIDS (Business Improvement District Scheme) scheme in Dublin city centre shows that there is a willingness to work such initiatives if there is sufficient benefit and adequate explanation and consultation. Local government also requires more opportunities to introduce appropriate local taxation, subject of course to the law and the right of the people to comment on same through local election campaigns and possibly local referenda.

At present, Dublin City Council is losing out on millions of euro every year (€30 million for 2022 alone) from commercial rates which Government has abdicated its responsibility to pay. While applicable across the entire country, this has hit Dublin more than anywhere else and is a further example of the cost involved in being the capital city.

Since the expedient abolition of domestic rates in 1977 every local authority has lost significant income. The promise to allocate a sum equal to the amount that would have been raised has been consistently broken. I have calculated that the loss to Dublin City Council since that decision was imposed has been in the order of E8billion. Other decisions imposed such as National Wage Agreements increased that with local government denied any opportunity to participate at the negotiating table. The concept and practice of ‘social partnership’, it would appear, included everyone except the democratically elected arm of local government. Once again, as in so many instances, it was a case of National Government decides but Local Government pays. A proposal some years ago by members of Dublin City Council to introduce a €1 per night hotel/bed tax for all visitors would have, on average, delivered approximately €28million additional resources to the city. Despite the fact that, at the time, some hotels were charging rates of up to €500 per night, the proposal met with outright hostility from the trade and, as ever, a compliant, not to say hostile Department and Government, refused to introduce the necessary legislation. This money could, and would, have been invested directly into providing better experiences and facilities for all, residents and visitors alike, and would, over a four-year period and spread across the Dublin county, have delivered approximately €180million to make Dublin a better place at relatively little cost or inconvenience.

A reduction in the number of agencies and quangos, with their roles and responsibilities transferred to local councils would enable swifter and more ‘on the ground’ decision making. It would ensure a better integration and delivery of services and would also save money.

Image © Daniele Idini.

National Forum on the Financing of Local government

I have previously proposed that a National Forum on the Financing of local government should be established as a matter of urgency. The Forum would draw its membership from the main political parties, the two councillor representative bodies and the social partners. It would be given six months to a year, to agree an approach that would provide sufficient funding, on a nationally agreed basis, and one that would allow some degree in local flexibility as to appropriate local fund raising.

Image © Daniele Idini.

And finally

Introducing the direct election of longer- term Mayors is not the panacea for all our problems but it would be a major starting point. Quite simply, the people whom we are meant to serve deserve better. The current mess suits no one except the mandarins in the Custom House and their temporary ministerial masters. This cannot be allowed to prevail. We need to create something better. We need to dream of a better future and to turn those dreams into realities. We need to create and drive forward a Dublin that is all the things we want it to be.

But let us do more than just imagine – let us truly create it. We have an opportunity to put behind us the mistakes and the errors of the past and to learn from them. As a society we need not be bound by old agreements, old alliances or old commitments. Indeed we must not be bound by them. We have the opportunity and duty to fight back and to stand up for real local decision making and to build a truly inclusive, progressive and sustainable city and county. We can and must build a better future for Dublin and Dubliners. In short this Assembly has an opportunity to stand up for Dublin. Let us truly make it “One Dublin for many Dubliners”. In doing so, we are also standing up for Ireland. If we don’t, no one else will.

This is a personal submission from Councillor Dermot Lacey.

Feature Image © Daniele Idini.

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About Author

Dermot Lacey is Leader of the Labour Group on Dublin City Council – currently representing the Pembroke area. He is one of the most experienced members of Local Government in Ireland serving since 1993. He has served as Chairperson of the Housing, Social and Community Affairs Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) and the Arts, Community and Recreation SPC and the Finance Committee. He is a former Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cathaoirleach of the Dublin Regional Authority, the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly and the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly. He has served on the City of Dublin VEC/ETB and the Dublin Docklands Development Council. Dermot is a life-long member of the Scout Movement whose ethos is reflected in his political and community activism.

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