LAST June, Charles, the everlasting Prince of Wales, visited Cork with the missus, Camilla. While there, so the story goes, he was heard to whisper to a flunky: ‘After you’ve met 2,000 Lord Mayors they all begin to look the same.’
The comment from one of Cork’s favourite Royals was not meant to disparage the dignity of the Real Capital’s first citizen. Of course not. It was nothing more than a matter-of-fact observation on the difficulties Charles encounters repeating the inane ‘Hallo, How-de-do-dee. Did you come far?’ to thousands of local politicos who all look all the same.
A complicating factor for the popular HRH was that Cork’s political dignitaries, particularly Lord Mayors, are sort of … how do we put it without offending local Royalists? …well … not as ‘authentic’ as their counterparts in Britain or those from monarchist cities, such as Dublin or Belfast.
You see, Leeside councillors cannot be addressed formally with the phrase ‘The Right Honourable,’ whereas Dublin and Belfast Lord Mayors have no problems using the title. Yep! That’s a fact! ‘Right Honourable’ was not granted to the representatives of Rebel Cork by order of Queen Victoria on July 9th, 1900, whereas Belfast and Dublin got the privilege.
Needless to say, within the context of royal protocol such things are noticed by those who matter and, we assume, discreetly commented on by ‘you know who’ in Buckingham Palace. In other words, without the ‘Right Honourable’ tag, Cork politicos don’t cut the mustard. ’Nuff said, but you get the drift.
Plebiscite on way
To make matters worse, a Leeside Lord Mayor continues to be just a step above a common or garden councillor. He/she has no unique functions other than chairing Corpo meetings, pacifying tenants’ associations, granting the Freedom of the City to so-called notables and giving half-days to schoolkids.
The role of the First Citizen is entirely ceremonial: he/she gets a furry gown, extra bobs and a free Ford car for a year, plus driver, and off they go. In the meantime, a professional civil servant is entrusted with executive power to manage the city!
But that’s about to change. And it’s all because local hero and Government Minister for Something or Other, Simon Coveney, tweaked Vlad’s ear and managed to prevail on The Great Leader that Cork should have a directly-elected mayor. To which we say ‘doubles all round’ and well done Simon!
What’s more, the responsibility for electing the city’s mayor will fall on the broad and noble shoulders of the Plain People of Cork.
A plebiscite of Corkonian voters will be held on the matter and, if approved, the likelihood is that Cork will have a mayoral election during the local and European elections in June 2019.
Blowing a gasket
So, because of the nice Mr Coveney, Cork is being prioritised as a test case for a Lord Mayor directly elected by Leesiders. But, as always in this country, there’s the inevitable backbiting, calumny and detraction.
According to reports emanating from the Big Smoke, the Dubs are up the wall at the prospect that their city has been relegated to second place, while Cork gets the go-ahead for an elected Lord Mayor.
Last month a Labour senator blew a gasket. Bizarrely he called on all Dublin TDs, senators and councillors ‘to put on their Dublin jersey’ and support the Corpo campaign for a directly-elected mayor. What was happening was an insult to the capital, he said.
Councillors howled that they didn’t understand why Vlad was shelving plans for Dublin and instead facilitating Cork. They demanded to know if, in fact, a vote really would take place on whether Cork city should have a directly elected mayor.
‘If the government has a plan for Cork, then they should publish it. We should be told,’ they moaned (much, we suppose, to the sly amusement of Our Simon who caught the Jackeens on the hop).
Nevertheless, Dublin councillors have a point. They want to know what Cork will be voting on. What sort of powers will be transferred to a Cork Lord Mayor? How transparent will the process be? How will the Mayor’s competence be evaluated? What procedures will be taken in the case of a dumbbell becoming Mayor (a local Donald Trump, for instance) and that he’ll hold office for five years?
They’re worried too about a mayor filling the shoes of a city manager in respect of executive responsibilities, economic development, forward planning, roads, transport, urban development and, most importantly, budgeting.
And, they’re asking what sort of training will be provided to Lord Mayors to prepare them for dealing with the multitude of government agencies and quangos that run the country?
They also want clarification on the functions other elected members of the Council will have in the event of a publicly-elected Lord Mayor?
And, what measures will be taken, they ask, to deter directly elected mayors from continuing with the old tried and trusted ways of buck-passing, pulling the auld stroke and attempting to please everyone for the votes that are in it?
They say such questions need to be put before the public and thoroughly discussed before any vote is taken in Cork. They’re right, of course!
On the other hand, the prospect of electing a Lord Mayor for Cork has warmed the cockles of Jerry Buttimer’s heart. Buttimer is a FG senator and a former TD who sees a link between a mayor being chosen by a popular vote and the proposed M20 motorway to Limerick!
Cork, he says, is in line for large scale regeneration projects, such as the new motorway. Changes are on the way and, he argues, the time has come to have a directly elected mayor to direct these changes.
‘We need to look to the future and take our place among the forefront of modern and progressive European cities,’ he told us recently in a press release. Let’s face facts, he too is right!
So far, 141 international celebrities from the worlds of music and the arts have signed a letter supporting the Palestinian call for a boycott of Eurovision 2019 to be hosted in Israel.
Among them are Mary Black, Christy Moore, Charlie McGettigan, Mike Murphy, Robert Ballagh, Brian Eno, The Knife, Wolf Alice, Ken Loach, Luis Llach, Mike Leigh, Alexi Sayle, Al Kennedy and Nick Seymour of Crowded House.
The organisers of the open letter write: ‘Last May, days after Israel’s Eurovision win, the Israeli army killed 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, including six children, and injured hundreds.
Until Palestinians can enjoy freedom, justice and equal rights to all humans, there should be no business-as-usual with the state that is denying them their basic rights.”
And so say all of us!