By Kieran O’Mahony
THE May 24th public vote on a directly-elected Lord Mayor for Cork City Council has been described as a ‘box-ticking exercise’ by one county councillor.
Cllr Mary Rose Desmond (FF) made the comment when the subject was raised at a recent meeting of the local authority.
The lack of information, the timing of it and the fact that Cork County Council is excluded from it, were also highlighted by several councillors at the meeting.
Cllr Desmond said she is meeting people on doorsteps who will be facing this ballot paper but believes the information has come very late in the day from the Department.
‘A directly-elected mayor is something that I would view as positive but it’s coming at completely the wrong time,’ said Cllr Desmond. ‘The timing is incredibly lacking in thought when we are facing into a new Council that has had the biggest changes in 50 years and there is at least two to three years bedding-down with regards to processes and changes,’ said Cllr Desmond.
‘I think it’s really disingenuous to be included now and it’s just a box-ticking exercise in the hope that it will be defeated rather than be given thought and discussion at a later stage.’
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said it is a shame that Cork County Council and its members and those members of the public that are leaving the county boundary aren’t allowed voice their opinions as to whether they agree with directly-elected mayors or not.
‘It’s unfortunate that we are disenfranchised from making a decision on this. I have serious concerns about directly-elected mayors and my main concern is that we should have, or could have, a voice and I’m bitterly disappointed about this happening,’ said Cllr Murphy.
Cllr Gobnait Moynihan (FF) said that while this plebiscite for directly-elected mayors is for the city, and not the county, she pointed out that there is a lack of clarity on that and there is a lack of information about it.
‘It’s very difficult to make an informed decision on election day when they don’t have the information in front of them,’ said Cllr Moynihan.
Cllr Diarmaid Ó Cadhla (Ind) said he is very much in favour of the idea of elected mayors but agreed with Cllr Murphy’s call that it should be in the county too.
‘There has been a lack of information alright and that’s the government’s fault but the idea that the people of Cork city can vote for their mayor is good,’ said Cllr Ó Cadhla.
County mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said he is not in agreement with elected mayors and said that Cork, Waterford and Limerick are being used as ‘guinea pigs’ to see how it works out before they move it to Dublin.
‘I’m totally against it and I think it will complicate the interaction between Cork County and Cork City. I just think it will complicate the whole local government framework,’ said Cllr Murphy. ‘If you have directly-elected mayors you’re moving some way away from local politics, where the members don’t have a say in electing the mayor.’
A vote on a directly-elected Lord Mayor for Cork City Council will take place on Friday, May 24th on the same day as the local and European elections.
Meanwhile, Clonakilty people are gearing up for their own Mayoral election, which will take place the day after – on Saturday May 25th – at Scoil na mBuachaillí.
Voters will once again get the opportunity to vote to select Clonakilty mayors for the coming five years and nominations are now open until midnight on May 8th.
Clonakilty is unique in that they are the only town in the country to retain their own mayor – which has a non-statutory role – since the abolition of town councils in 2014.
A public information meeting was held in O’Donovan’s Hotel last week which was addressed by all five mayors of the town since 2014, including Clonakilty Blackpudding boss Colette Twomey.