Local Government Reform (Amendment) (Directly Elected Mayor of Dublin) Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time"

I am sharing time with Deputy Shane Cassells. I welcome the opportunity to go into more detail on the Bill. I thank the Minister of State for being present. The idea of a mayor for Dublin goes back to the time of the former Minister and Deputy, Mr. Noel Dempsey. In 2001 or 2002, it resurfaced in the context of the Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition. There was a commitment in my party's manifesto in the run-in to the last general election to seek to hold a plebiscite on the matter. As I made clear when I introduced it on First Stage, the Bill is clear and concise. It provides for the holding of a plebiscite, which is a vote of all eligible voters, in the four administrative counties of Dublin that would decide whether legislation should be brought forward to provide for the establishment of an office of a directly-elected mayor who would be chairperson and leader of an authority or other body for the Dublin metropolitan area.

Our timeline is set out clearly. The proposed plebiscite is to be held no later than May 2018 and the Minister, no less than six months prior to that date and following a period of public consultation, is to cause a copy of the proposals setting out the powers and responsibility of the directly-elected mayor to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. Such proposals must be approved by both Houses before being put before the people of Dublin. If the plebiscite is passed, elections for a directly-elected mayor would be held in conjunction with the local and European elections in 2019.

At present, there are four Dublin local authorities, namely, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council, Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. This entails four chief executive officers and four mayors or cathaoirligh. While it was proper that they were set up when Dublin was split into four local authorities in the mid-1990s, these authorities were established to compete with each other. They have competed quite effectively and each of the three regions have well-established county towns. However, they were not set up to co-operate or to collaborate. This needs to change. Although we are seeking that broader powers be afforded to the mayor, if Dubliners, in deciding to vote for a directly-elected mayor, gave that directly-elected mayor just one power - that to co-ordinate the functions of the four local authorities - it would be a good day's work.

This is the only proposal to come before the House in the context of a directly-elected mayor for Dublin that gives all of Dublin's citizens and stakeholders a direct say in the matter. We believe that holding a plebiscite avoids an accusation of creating just another layer of bureaucracy in the city because, ultimately, Dublin's citizens may decide to reject the idea of a directly-elected mayor. If they decide positively and elect to do so, then they are assenting to the structures that are required to make that mayor effective.

Our proposal does not seek to impose one particular view or model or set of functions or structures or architecture in respect of the mayor. We live in a world that is being convulsed by extremes on the left and the right and we are hypersensitive to the need to enable all Dubliners to have a full say and not to feel that a directly-elected mayor is an idea of politicians or one that is championed by the media, business interests etc.

As I stated in an interview this morning, this is an idea that must appeal to people if they live in Fettercairn, Blanchardstown, Dalkey or Balbriggan. It must have something in it to ensure it appeals to every part of the county.

One of the most dispiriting interviews I have heard in recent weeks and months was one given by the founder or co-ordinator of the Web Summit, Paddy Cosgrave, at the weekend when he stated Dublin did not have the capacity to host the summit and its 53,000 delegates. There may be politics involved in that statement and it does not interest me in that regard. On the other hand, the IRFU is competing to ensure the Rugby World Cup will be hosted in Ireland, including Dublin, in 2023. The IRFU believes the country has the capacity to host 400,000 people from abroad. Notwithstanding the good news this represents, the downside is that from an event management and conference hosting point of view, Dublin does not compete with other international city regions.

We had the debacle around cancelled Garth Brooks concerts a few years ago. The capital did not have one boss who could make a decision and bring in people. Regardless of people's taste in music, Dublin business people, from street traders to hoteliers, were denied significant income, not to speak of the pleasure of the performance. If I recall correctly, Garth Brooks was to give three performances in Croke Park, each of which would have been attended by 80,000 fans. It is mind boggling that this opportunity was allowed to slip through our fingers.

We also have initiatives such as the dublinbikes scheme and Dublin greenways. The National Transport Authority is a statutory body that can make decisions about these initiatives without any democratic accountability. Bikes are not an add-on luxury in the daily lives of Dublin but a fundamental and essential part of transport in the city.

I applauded the Taoiseach's decision to spend considerable time on the Dublin north inner city task force. This is not the type of thing a Taoiseach needs to spend time on. This is the job of a directly elected Dublin mayor, which is not to say it is not worthy of the attention of the Taoiseach. I do not want to be misunderstood in that regard. However, as the elected Prime Minister, the Taoiseach has national responsibilities.

I will outline some of the functions we would like to be considered as part of our proposal for a directly elected mayor of Dublin. The capital must start to position itself to compete with other international cities of similar size, most of which have directly elected mayors, with all of them at least having mayors with executive functions. This function would be to ensure the capital develops economically.

On transport, at a political level, it will be necessary to establish another Dublin transportation agency and this time it should be chaired by a directly elected mayor. The Dublin housing task force, which is dominated by officials, needs to have a political force driving it. This function could also deal with issues such as delivery, land availability and approving and reviewing the accommodation of homeless persons strategy for the Dublin region.

Five of the top eight information technology companies in the world are headquartered in the capital. Despite this, Dublin is not considered to be a smart city internationally. We have an opportunity to enable the city to gain a competitive advantage over other cities. We need a directly elected mayor who would drive the willingness to use Dublin as a test bed for innovation. We should use the technology companies to assist us in modelling, for example, improvements in the transport infrastructure. One can drive through Dublin city and county with ease when schools are closed. With the right technology, surely someone could harness the available data and information to produce a model that could assist us in this regard. South Dublin County Council, my local authority, only monitors traffic entering and leaving the council area. To the best of my knowledge, there is no monitoring or harnessing of data for the entire county.

On arts and culture, a parliament of the arts should meet annually in Dublin. This should serve as a forum to give a voice to everyone in the arts, culture and heritage and could also be chaired by a directly elected mayor. This body could drive policy for arts and culture in the city.

Dublin has a specific responsibility in the area of climate change. We can develop the various areas as we go along, but a directly elected mayor could have a function in this area by being a champion for action on climate change. This would appeal in particular to a younger generation in the capital and make politics relevant to them.

The merits of a directly elected mayor include the leadership role he or she would assume in the city. There would be one voice, go-to person and identifiable champion of the city. This person would be the symbolic head in terms of meeting business leaders and attracting foreign direct investment. A particular advantage would be the accountability involved. An elected mayor would be democratically accountable in a way the four chief executive officers of the four Dublin local authorities are not accountable.

As a former member of South Dublin County Council for almost 20 years, I am aware of the concerns of some members of the four Dublin local authorities. However, I do not foresee a directly elected mayor of Dublin leading to any diminution of the powers and role of councillors on the four Dublin local authorities. On the contrary, the legislation provides an opportunity to enhance their role and give them additional powers. It also raises the possibility of producing ideas for having a different form of mayor or cathaoirleach for the four Dublin local authorities should they so decide.

I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce the Bill on Second Stage.

As the Fianna Fáil Party spokesperson on local government, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in support of Deputy Lahart's Bill. The legislation is a major step forward in advocating real local democracy as opposed to the narrow stranglehold of executive control that exists in Dublin and elsewhere. We should all be committed to breaking the shackles the Custom House holds over democratically elected members in local government.

The Minister of State, Deputy English, and I were elected to our local authority on the same weekend in 1999, which seems a long time ago. He has a deep commitment to local government, an area in which I spent a little more time than he did, and to ensuring it is strengthened rather than diminished.

From its inception, Deputy Lahart's proposal has been people orientated because it will facilitate a plebiscite on establishing an office of directly elected mayor. If approved by the people of Dublin, the proposal will strengthen the legitimacy and authenticity of the office when it is established.

During my time as a journalist, I interviewed several senior Dublin City Council economic officers, whose role was to promote the capital city as a destination for foreign investment, notably in the United States, Mexico and further afield. The need to have a mayor who is more than a figurehead is all the more pressing because publicly elected members and officials who travel from abroad to Dublin cannot get their heads around the fact that they are meeting a mayor who does not have executive powers. Instead, they must talk shop to the chief executive of the council and the role of the mayor is nothing more than to hold hands.

The proposed plebiscite is not prescriptive in terms of what powers a new mayor would have. These would be worked out through a discussion consequent on the proposal being passed. The shift in attitude that would be created by virtue of taking the first step of holding a plebiscite would be a significant advance in this discussion and would, I hope, result in a realisation of the goal of establishing an office of a directly elected mayor of Dublin.

While city and county managers are all exemplary professionals in their own right, the current system has not been established through a democratic process. Anyone who has served in local government will know the constraints that apply under this system and the frustration it causes. A mayor for the whole of Dublin would have an immediate public resonance with the capital's citizens who would elect the mayor and whom the mayor would serve. By virtue of being elected, the mayor would have an immediate bond with the city's citizens. In times of strife and joy in the city and at times when a firm hand of leadership is required, people would look to their first citizen rather than a chief executive who is not in the public eye and had not been democratically elected.

In this Republic, we have mayors who have fine gold chains but no power at their command. From the get-go, their office is undermined by their lack of authority. In Dublin, the waters are further muddied by virtue of the fact there are four mayors rather than one central figure.

This Bill gives us a chance to create a pilot project, which, if successful, could hopefully be extended to all parts of the country in time. Crucially, it could lead to a seismic shift in how governance happens at local level. It would create a real sense of public transparency that the buck actually stops with somebody the people elected. Deputy Lahart referred to the very public controversy that engulfed the holding of a concert in Croke Park several years ago. On that occasion, the sheer lack of a central leadership figure was the one aspect that stood out. Instead, people came in from all sides trying to pull the threads together. That is one example of where a democratically-elected mayor could act as a standard bearer for all involved.

Aside from anything else, the people of Dublin across the four local authority areas deserve one figure who can speak for them while potentially creating a collaborative policy framework for all of Dublin in transport, economic policy and tourism. This would be good for all parts of our capital. Critically, this is a significant move in the support of democratically-elected local authority members whose role over the decades in local government has been diminished by the removal of some matters from local authorities' remit. Local authorities should be the first port of call for the delivery of services on the ground. The degree of central government control, exerted by the Department, over local authorities is unreal. We have the most centralised system of government in the whole of western Europe. It is depressing.

The last item of local government reform by the then Minister, Phil Hogan, only diminished the role of councillors even further. It was not an enhancement. Despite whatever spin people want to put on it, the removal of town councils from urban areas left them bereft of the statutory financial powers that gave them real clout and an ability to focus on specific projects in our ever-growing urban areas without having to go through an overarching body. As the Minister of State, Deputy English, knows, as we come from the same town, the lack of financial separation away from an overarching body has created a scenario where we cannot spend specific resources or generate funds to target the social issues relating to urbanisation.

We need to see the move of power back to elected local authority members. The plebiscite proposed by Deputy Lahart is a major substantive and symbolic step in setting out that path. There is no better place for it to start than in our capital city. This Bill will set the standard and encourage local authorities in our other major cities to have directly-elected mayors.

I commend Deputy Lahart on all the work he has done and I hope the Bill will be successful.

I call on the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, who is sharing time with Deputy Alan Farrell.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"the Bill be deemed to be read a Second Time on 30 June, 2017, to allow for implementation of the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to consider directly elected mayors in cities as part of wider potential local government reform measures. The Programme provides that, having consulted widely with all relevant stakeholders, the Minister will, by mid-2017, prepare a report on such measures for Government and for the Oireachtas.".

I am pleased to participate in this debate, which comes at a time when the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, is advancing a process which will help inform and steer future reform of our local government structures. Any discussion that contributes to this process is welcome. We had this debate recently in the Seanad with Senator Kevin Humphreys. This is a welcome debate brought forward by Deputy Lahart. We had a similar debate several weeks ago about Airbnb. These are important issues which affect not just the cities but also growth centres such as our own in Navan, County Meath. We want to strengthen local government.

The programme for a partnership Government sets out several commitments on "the next wave of local government reform". This involves a report to the Government and the Oireachtas by mid-2017 on potential measures to boost local government leadership and accountability, as well as ensuring local government structures and responsibilities strengthen local democracy. The programme also references some specific issues to be considered, including the directly-elected mayor concept.

I agree with Deputy Shane Cassells on the need to strengthen the position and powers of local authority members, having been on my local authority for a time. Our officials based in the Custom House are working with local authority members and executives to build a strong relationship. In our stakeholder meetings and our meetings with local authorities across the country, we are keeping channels of communication open and strengthening working relationships. Part of that has to be strengthening local government. Key decision makers and directors of office are local authority members.

Work on foot of the programme commitment has commenced in the Department, with the aim of building on the measures in the Local Government Reform Act 2014. In the coming months, particular attention will be given by the Department to: measures to enhance leadership and accountability in local government, including: directly-elected mayors; action to widen and strengthen the role of local government, especially through devolution of functions from central to local level; measures to reinforce the effectiveness of the 2014 reforms to the local government system, such as the new municipal district structures, in light of a recent operational review; and consideration of issues around the establishment of town councils.

I understand and appreciate the intention behind the Bill, which seeks to put in place a process that will allow the electorate the opportunity to consider the establishment of a directly-elected mayor for Dublin. A consultation process would first be undertaken leading to proposals being presented to the Dáil and Seanad later in 2017 that would then require a positive resolution of both Houses before being put for decision in a plebiscite of the Dublin electorate to be held no later than May 2018. Provided the envisaged plebiscite is successful, the mayoral election would then be held in conjunction with the 2019 local elections. This is broadly consistent with commitments in the Government's programme to consider directly-elected mayors and further devolution of powers to local authorities.

The Bill before the House does not set out the range of functions that would be devolved to the directly-elected mayor. Neither does it set out how the establishment of such an office would affect existing local government arrangements and boundaries. There is also no reference to cost. However, the Bill does provide for a process whereby issues would be debated and decided upon by both Houses prior to a plebiscite being held. The process set out in the Bill is in some ways similar to the process legislated for by the previous Government under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, which also provided for a plebiscite of the Dublin electorate for the establishment of a directly-elected mayor for Dublin. However, this was contingent on securing the support of a majority of the elected members of each the four Dublin local authorities and, in this regard, it was ultimately unsuccessful.

Some concerns expressed about the previous proposal concerned the range of functions which could be assigned to a directly-elected mayor. How would these be prioritised by the mayor? There was uncertainty over how a directly-elected mayor would be held to account and the interface with the local authorities. This Bill provides that the powers and responsibilities to be assigned to a directly-elected mayor will be determined by the Houses. We must work to agree on a clear and fully developed proposal on how an office for a directly-elected mayor will function and operate in practice.

Departments and State agencies with responsibility for key public service functions that could be assigned to a directly-elected mayor must be actively involved in this process. Key stakeholders from the business, retail and tourism sectors, as well as the general public, should also have the opportunity to have an input. Deputy Lahart also has this in mind in the context of his legislation. The aim should be to have a broad, inclusive consultation process that allows robust proposals to be brought before the Houses for consideration within the framework of the commitments set out in the Government's programme. The Government is open to considering all workable proposals that will contribute to this process. We must also recognise the complexity of undertaking an ambitious reform of local government arrangements in Dublin.

The functions and responsibilities of a directly elected mayor could potentially be very broad in scope and require consequential change in public services in areas such as housing, transport, tourism, heritage and enterprise. The amendment we are putting forward will allow for the commitment in the programme for Government to consider directly elected mayors in cities to be implemented by mid-2017 and provides the appropriate context for advancing to consideration of legislation on this matter. I thank Deputy Lahart for bringing forward this Bill and I look forward to the future work in this area.

I thank Deputy Lahart for bringing forward this Bill. Critical to this debate is the amendment the Minister of State has tabled. It gives us an opportunity not only to tease out the specifics of the role we would like the directly elected mayor to have but also to ensure we are not just talking about Dublin. As a former mayor of Fingal, whose local authority was responsible for derailing the directly elected mayor process two years ago, I believe the rationale given by the councillors in the chamber on the day in question was very well thought out. The councillors' concerns included concern over the diminution of their responsibility. That is a perfectly understandable position for them to adopt. I would not like to see a directly elected mayor introduced in the city and county of Dublin to the detriment of the role and responsibility of local authority members.

I welcome the comments by Deputies Lahart and Cassells in so far as they outlined some of the portfolio increases they would like to see provided to local authority members and the office of mayor. In line with those broad brush strokes of agreement in A Programme for a Partnership Government, there has to be consideration of the devolution of responsibility across a number of areas that are not currently under the remit of local authorities. I refer to devolution of responsibility by certain Departments. If we want a truly effective head of local government for our area, he or she must be elected and not be a public servant, with the greatest of respect to our current county and city managers. I have a great relationship with my local CEO, who has really brought life to the CEO's office in Fingal. We must also bear in mind the improved responsibility of councillors.

Let us be honest about the fact that, as Members of this House, we are only too aware of what happens when one puts a chain around the neck of a councillor. He or she starts having notions or aspiring to get into this office.

Did Deputy Farrell?

Indeed. That is probably true.

The truth is that we have to resource mayors properly and give them the responsibility and - dare I say it, unpopularly perhaps - the remuneration to ensure they have a full-time job that keeps them engaged with their local community and that they can make a career out of it. Let us be honest about the fact that, across all sides of the House, we recognise that councillors are dreadfully underpaid for a role that really should be much larger than it currently is. The only way of improving that role is to give more responsibility to the officeholders involved.

With regard to the executive powers, the change of role of the current mayor and the proper accountability of that officeholder are critical to the success or failure of this project. I echo the comments of Deputy Cassells, who used the term "pilot project". That is an incredibly important element of this debate. It is a pilot project. I am 100% supportive of it if we get it right in terms of the devolution of responsibility to the officeholder but I would very much like to see the project rolled out across the country. I would like to see included our existing local authorities and certain cities — Galway, Cork and Limerick, perhaps. I want to ensure this is rolled out across the country because I do not want to see a figurehead with executive responsibility in the cities only to the detriment of our counties. My party learned an awful lot from the last general election about the view of our rural population on what the Government is doing. If we bring in an urban mayor to the detriment of, or without including, rural local authorities across the State, the people will not thank us for it. I commend Deputy Lahart and others on the Bill and the Minister of State on the amendment. I support both on this occasion.

I am sharing time with Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

I thank Deputy Lahart for introducing this Bill. Sinn Féin will be happily supporting it today and on later Stages. We always start these debates by saying we have one of the most centralised local government systems in Europe, as is the case. It is very often the case that politicians lament over-centralisation when in opposition but when they get into government their willingness to devolve power from central government Departments or State agencies to local government seems to evaporate. While we often bemoan the power of city and county managers, and now chief executives, we must realise they have that power because the Government has vested it in them and has decided against real devolution of power to elected members.

Sinn Féin has long been of the view that directly elected mayors should be an integral part of local government reform. I refer to real local government reform through devolving powers and functions downwards. It is on that basis that we are happy to support Deputy Lahart's Bill.

As somebody who, like other Deputies, participated in former Minister Phil Hogan's consultation, as it was called, I noted that one of the great difficulties we all had was that we were debating in a vacuum. We were being asked as local councillors whether we supported the proposition of holding a plebiscite on a directly elected mayor without having any idea what powers would be devolved to such an institution. I always believed that was a particularly unfair responsibility to give to councillors. In South Dublin County Council, we set out our stall regarding what we believed would be an appropriate way to run such an office. On that basis, we voted in favour of holding the plebiscite but we could completely understand why councillors in Fingal took a contrary view.

In real terms, it is the responsibility of those people arguing for a directly elected mayor to outline what powers they believe such an office should have. One of the merits of the Bill we are debating is that it would allow for that public consultation. People would then know, as a result of a decision of the Oireachtas, what powers would be vested in the office before the plebiscite would be held.

When people talk about directly elected mayors, we hear a lot of rhetoric that there would be a go-to person, a champion or a such person. We need to keep in mind that there is not much public appetite for more politicians or political institutions. Sinn Féin's view is that such an office should have a very limited number of very clear and powerful executive functions, in the first instance so people understand the function of a directly elected mayor rather than a local authority or central government. The second objective would be to give the office and holder of the office a real opportunity to show what added value they can bring to the life of the city. Of course, if they could show, in respect of public transport, tourism or otherwise, that they could do a good job and add value, there could then be a process for rolling devolution as public trust and confidence grew.

There should be no sucking away of powers from local authorities up to such an office. If there is to be a directly elected mayor, power needs to be devolved downwards from central government and State agencies to the office. With that power and those functions, staff and resources need to follow. There would not be much public appetite at this stage for the creation of a new layer of political administration and additional budgets. If one were to make a directly elected mayor responsible for public transport, there would simply be no reason staff and funds from the relevant agencies and Departments could not be moved into the new office so it could fulfil its functions.

It is important to ensure that, if there is such an office, the holder and his or her staff are properly held to account. Very clearly, there is a need for some form of regional assembly, probably appointed in the first instance from the four Dublin local authorities, to hold the officeholder fully to account. One could do that in a relatively cost-neutral way that would also enable the four Dublin local authorities to feel they have a voice and some say in shaping the overall functioning of the office.

The Government amendment is not necessary. The way in which Deputy Lahart has timelined the Bill is such that it fits quite neatly with the work the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, and his Department will be doing. I presume members of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government will be examining this and bringing their findings back to the Dáil.

Most people believe that the citizens of the city and county of Dublin should have their say on whether this office is created and the kinds of power, responsibility and budget that would go with it. On this basis, we are happy to support the Bill and see it through before having the debate with stakeholders that is suggested in the Bill.

Is rud maith é go bhfuil an Bille seo os ár gcomhair agus tiocfaidh mé ar ais go dtí an méid atá sa Bhille níos déanaí.

When we discuss local government and its powers, we must sometimes consider why it does not have the powers that we wish it to have. Since the foundation of the State, there has been a continuous emasculation of local government's power. Consider the 1920s, a period to which I often refer. When the State was founded, it encountered major problems with a number of councils. They had strong powers at the time, some of which were inherited from the British Administration, which seemed to have more respect for local authorities in some ways than the new State did. Since then, there has been a diminution of their powers.

Last year, I read about the man who was meant to be the first Sinn Féin mayor of Dublin, Mr. Tom Kelly. He was recovering from a stint in jail in England and was unable to take up the position to which he had been nominated and elected. A chapter in the book told of a move by the State against the then Dublin Corporation during Mr. Kelly's time in local government due to an argument between the councillors and the officials. The State was not too happy with their independence or how they reflected it.

Since then, there has been a continued erosion of local government's powers. Far too often, central government has been willing to centralise those powers. For example, it vested in itself or some quango or other the power to raise funds locally. I was young at the time, but one of the major shifts in local government came in 1977 when Fianna Fáil promised to remove rates. Local authorities have been dependent on central government ever since. This is so despite the imposition of property tax on households, given that property tax is not redistributed to them in full. This is especially the case in Dublin.

The period in question also saw a creeping privatisation of local authorities' services. Directly delivered services were removed from them because Governments, in particular recent ones, danced to the tune of the European Commission or the champions of supposed small government. This saw local governments being reduced. Under the previous Government, some town councils disappeared altogether. These moves by Government have been to the detriment of local authorities and everyone in Ireland.

The co-ordination of planning seemed to disappear because powers were removed from councillors and handed to unelected officials who were previously called city or council managers but to whom some genius has now thought to give a new title with a view to running local government like a business. I am sorry, but officials are supposed to be running a council, not a business. It is not all for profit, but some officials seem to believe that a council can be run for profit, or at least in a company-like way. It is a public service, so there is a difference in attitude.

I agree with the proposal. It is a good one, and we should try to ensure proper co-ordination of services in this city and county. Four councils working at odds with one another has been to our detriment. There should be joined-up thinking. For example, there are proposals to give responsibility for Dublin tourism to a directly elected mayor. In transport, taxis were deregulated. They used to be under the remit of the councils. Dublin city and county represent one quarter of the State's population. That is huge, yet there is no proper co-ordination because the four councils sometimes find that difficult. If some services or powers were centralised in a mayor who was directly elected and, hence, directly accountable to the electorate for the delivery of those services, it would be good. Such a figurehead could co-ordinate or help to co-ordinate the four authorities on other issues over which he or she did not have power. The mayor could pull people together in order to strategise with a view towards the city's future population growth, planning, locating industry, the green belt and the environment. We should be considering these issues.

Ní siombail amháin atá uainn sa mhéara seo. Táimid ag iarraidh go mbeadh cumhacht ag an méara agus an buiséad chun na pleananna atá muide ag caint faoi a chur chun cinn. Nílimid ag iarraidh go dtiocfadh an buiséad sin ó na comhairlí áitiúla atá ann faoi láthair ach go dtiocfadh sé ón gciste lárnach agus ón Rialtas agus go mbeidh cumhachtaí an athuair ag an gcathair chun airgead a thuilleamh. Níl an cumhacht sin go hiomlán ann faoi láthair. Caithfimid cur leis na cumhachtaí atá ag na húdaráis áitiúla. B'fhéidir go bhféadfaimis é sin a dhéanamh trí mhéara tofa má tá cumhachtaí ann maidir le pleanáil réigiúnda, postanna agus an timpeallacht. Ar dtús báire, áfach, bheadh an méara ag díriú ar chúrsaí iompair agus eacnamaíochta, an turasóireacht, cúrsaí dramhaíola sa chathair agus mar sin de.

Is cuí é go bhfuilimid ag déanamh cinnte go mbeidh an reachtaíocht curtha chun cinn agus gur féidir linn tuilleadh plé - agus plé cuibheasach domhain - a dhéanamh air agus go bhfuilimid á bhogadh ar aghaidh seachas á chur ar athló mar atá molta ag an Rialtas.

The Labour Party will support on Second Stage the two Bills being presented to the Dáil this week regarding a directly elected mayor of Dublin. Both Bills have good elements. Ideally, some of them should be pulled together on Committee Stage. Will we ever get to Committee Stage though? The Government's amendment seems to be the default position, in that everything gets pushed at least six months down the road before it is addressed. All parties want there to at least be discussion and progress on this topic.

The Labour Party proposed a similar Bill to Fianna Fáil's, in that the people of Dublin should be entitled to vote on whether there should be such a role as the mayor of the greater Dublin area. The Fianna Fáil Bill is drafted to enable such a plebiscite, but it is without details as to what functions the mayor would have. In a way, we are debating something without knowing exactly what that role would be. On the other hand, the Green Party Bill outlines in detail what those functions would be under the Waste Management Act 1996, the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Local Government Act 2001. The Green Party tried to introduce such legislation while in government with Fianna Fáil, but agreement could not be reached. In conjunction with the functions and powers of the mayor, there would be a regional authority of Dublin and a Dublin regional development board under the Green Party's current Bill.

We are debating the Fianna Fáil Bill today but we must look at the two Bills together. They both advocate the preparation of a regional plan as one of the functions of the directly-elected mayor in consultation with the various Dublin regional authorities.

The Green Party Bill gives us a good basis on which to discuss what a directly-elected mayor would do, what his or her functions might be. Previous speakers talked about some of the possible functions. There is scope for much debate and discussion on what exactly a directly-elected mayor would do. I support the Green Party's suggestion that if it is good for Dublin then why should it not be good for Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Kilkenny and perhaps other places as well for the benefit of citizens. There are elements of both Bills that are definitely worth considering and discussing. However, the Green Party Bill does not provide for a plebiscite on the issue and we are in favour of such a plebiscite.

In considering what such an arrangement might look like in operation we have the example of London where we have had mayors on both sides of the political divide in Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. However there are lots of other models as well. I attended a conference on sustainable cities a couple of years ago and I was sitting beside the mayor of Vancouver. Vancouver is just one example of a city where there has been good leadership in terms of making it a very pleasant place to live and work. I do not know if anyone present has been to Vancouver but it is one of those cities that has pretty much everything in terms of what one would want living in a big city. Perhaps there are reasons for that such as wealth or other factors but there are other examples as well that should be considered in terms of what a directly-elected mayor might do for the city of Dublin and similarly what directly-elected mayors might do for other cities in this country.

I also favour more executive powers for councillors. I was chair of a twinning committee for a number of years. I am sure many Members have been involved in twinning committees, in particular with towns and cities in Brittany. I am going back some time but at the time the mayor and senior councillors in Brittany had responsibility for budgets. There was a councillor in charge of the transport budget and another was in charge of the housing budget and they had to make decisions. One of the problems with the Irish system is that councillors can rail against all kinds of things and say one should build more houses but when houses are being built in their own area they very often object. If councillors had more responsibility for budgets then we would have more responsible decision making from them, which is very much needed.

The debate must be viewed in a broader context. Consultation has begun on a replacement for the national spatial strategy and we recently debated the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill in the Dáil, which provides for that replacement, to be known as the national planning framework and it will be put on a statutory footing. The sustainable development of Dublin, and all of our cities, has to be part of the overall national planning for a balanced country where communities, urban and rural, can flourish.

With a projected population growth of half a million people over the next 20 years, we need to prepare now for the housing, transportation, environmental and social space in which people can have fulfilling lives. Allowing the citizens of our capital city to decide on who should lead the development of Dublin is a positive step to strengthen local democracy in the shaping of the future.

It is important to consider the broader context. The Minister referred to that in his speech in terms of the establishment of town councils again. The Labour Party acknowledges that the abolition of town councils has left a vacuum that needs to be filled. The old system was haphazard in terms of where there was, or was not, a town council. My county of Limerick, in spite of having a number of large towns such as Kilmallock, Abbeyfeale, Newcastlewest and others, had no town council whereas other very small towns around the country had town councils. We propose that all medium-sized towns should have directly-elected councils with dedicated budgets. We do not advocate going back to the old system exactly but there needs to be a system of local democracy at town level.

The two Bills under discussion this week give us, the elected representatives of the people, the opportunity to lead debate on democratic reform but we must ensure that people and communities get an opportunity to participate fully in that debate. If we have learned anything from the Brexit referendum in Britain and the American presidential election it is that people need to feel they are part of the decision-making process and that they are not having decisions imposed on them.

Some of the Members from Dublin talked about the difficulty with the various Dublin local authorities and concerns from Fingal that Dublin City Council might be trying to take over the show, as it were. I had some doubts about the amalgamation of the city and county local authorities in Limerick a couple of years ago because it was not just a case of expanding the city boundaries but of taking in the entire county. However, overall it has had a good effect on the city in so far as we do not have this unnatural boundary where one suddenly goes from the city into the county even though, in effect, it is the greater city area. It has allowed for more co-ordination of planning and services and it has given a sense of the place as being a more broader conurbation, a city that can go places. There is a renewed confidence in Limerick now. That is not due only to the fact that the city and county have merged but that is part of it. From that perspective, I suggest that the fear that Dublin city would dominate and that the outer fringes would be ignored if there is a directly-elected mayor with overall responsibility for the entire Dublin region is unfounded. That has not been the case in Limerick and in fact we have seen some really good developments in what was in the county but is now in the suburbs. I just wanted to refer to that at this point in the debate as well. I hope the Bill will get to Committee Stage where we will refine the two proposals that are before us this week and have something really positive for Dublin and other cities.

I wish to question the Bill before us without being insulting to either Fianna Fáil or the Green Party but I do not understand the point of either Bill. I have tried to read the Green Party Bill, which is very elaborate. The Fianna Fáil Bill is easier to read but both Bills seem to be putting the cart before the horse. As somebody who has just spent seven years in a local authority I argue that we should reform local authorities first before even thinking about a plebiscite or the election of a mayor.

The reason I say that is that if one looks at the history of the role of local authorities and locally elected councillors it has radically changed in recent decades. When one talks about engaging local people and making them feel like they have a say in their city or in what goes on in their community then one is fooling people. People like me and others have run in local elections over the years. We successfully got elected on the basis of manifestos where we promised to do something about housing, waste management, libraries and planning, which are the issues that concern people in their local communities. We addressed these issues, as people who were willing to put ourselves before the people and to represent them, but when we got elected to a local authority we found we were toothless on the most important issues. Local authorities used to play a very serious role in the provision of social housing, a role that meant they directly employed thousands of workers to both build and maintain a large stock of social housing. That is now gone from the powers of local councillors. The provision of housing is an executive function and ultimately what is called the CEO – I will come back to the language in a moment – formerly known as the manager, makes the decisions in that regard. Local councillors no longer have any power over the issues of bins, street cleaning, waste management or incineration, a very important issue in the cities of Dublin and Cork. This is ironic when it was Noel Dempsey of Fianna Fáil who brought in an amendment to the Waste Management Act 1996 to give complete power to the manager or to make it an executive function.

It has led to a really farcical situation where, during the seven years I spent on Dublin City Council, we voted by a majority three times to reject incineration in Poolbeg. This happened recently in Cork City Council where the majority of councillors voted to reject an incinerator in Ringaskiddy. Despite that, the appointed and well-paid managers, who are unelected, fly in the face of what the councillors, who are elected by people, want for their cities and impose their own will. The same was true of the privatisation of the bin service, which was a real tragedy. We saw it recently with the row about all of the companies, which are literally cartels rather than competitive services, fixing prices for green bins. It became a big issue in this Dáil and it has become a big issue in terms of the cost and failure of waste management in our cities. There are many issues. I do not have time to go into them now but the privatisation of waste management has failed our cities and towns.

Water has been taken from us and hived off to Irish Water. Deciding on the provision of water used to be the responsibility of local authority councillors with a very limited budget and without serious capital investment from the Government, which is one of the central planks of our argument against the water charges. Again, an unelected manager was imposing his will on this issue.

We never had a say over transport, planning and housing. Various tribunals, including the Mahon tribunal, had to take powers from the councillors because of the brown envelope brigade and the historic legacy of both conservative parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Planning democracy was removed from locally elected councillors. We are now faced with big landbanks such as those around Malahide, Finglas and Cherry Orchard. The Minister sets up a housing land initiative and tells councils they must put out for expressions of interest from developers in these lands. When a local councillor asks the manager about the interest in these lands, whether any social housing will be built on them and whether any of the voluntary housing agencies have expressed an interest, they are told nothing because it is a matter of commercial sensitivity. This also leads on to a lack of input from councillors with regard to things like rapid build being imposed on the people of Curlew Road in Drimnagh and the people of Cherry Orchard without any consultation and Carman's Hall being taken over from the community in the Liberties without any consultation. I was the chairperson of the local Traveller area accommodation committee for five years. Having spent months developing a Traveller accommodation programme, we then discovered through a report in The Irish Times that the funding for Traveller accommodation was not drawn down not just by the local authority but by many local authorities throughout the country on the basis of anti-social behaviour. Since when did we penalise entire communities for the anti-social behaviour of a few within their community? We only do it to Travellers. We are left in this very frustrating position of not being told anything and having no power to override the manager on it.

In respect of management, I referred to the fact these individuals are very highly paid and are not elected. I think 50% of councillors have to endorse them. They do not even have to get the 75% that is required to overturn a decision they may make that councillors want to challenge. However, they play a very important role because they are now called chief executive officer, CEO. The language says it all. Our cities, towns and local authorities are being turned into management committees for commercial purposes. When it is stripped down, there is very little, if any, role for a local councillor in the provision of housing, planning, water, waste management and other services like libraries. They will be turning on Christmas lights in all the constituencies in the next week, they will feel great about it and some of them will wear the chain of office of mayor, but it is so frustrating to be there. Two years ago, one of our councillors, Tina McVeigh, got a motion passed that Dublin City Council would set up a directory of derelict buildings to look at the possibility of either buying or pulling some of them back in for the provision of housing. Zilch was done about it. Last Monday, another one of our councillors, John Lyons, got a motion passed to oppose staffless libraries. The city manager, Owen Keegan, immediately came out with a statement that they will be a wonderful thing and that we will see the introduction of staffless libraries. Where does that leave democracy?

We are putting the cart before the horse. The question of local democracy is a fundamental one. A series of Acts or amendments to Acts imposed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party over the years have meant that there has been a serious erosion and hollowing out of the role of locally elected councillors. Unless we deal with that in the first instance and straight away, what is the point of electing a mayor? All we will be doing is giving serious powers to somebody who will oversee the running of the city, with powers all to themselves and without having a board of directors that have some say in the running of this company. The CEO will be replaced by a mayor. That in itself sounds democratic but we really need to start from the bottom up and rebuild local democracy and give councillors a say. That is why they get elected - not to turn on Christmas tree lights but to do something serious about the provision of services and the maintenance of a real life in a city instead of turning it into a city of cafés, clubs and cobblestones that will attract foreign direct investment as an alternative to a real living city for ordinary decent people.

I was elected to this House in June 2009. Some time after that, a Bill similar to this one in that it was about a directly elected Lord Mayor for Dublin was Government business when the Green Party was in coalition with Fianna Fáil. It reached quite an advanced stage at that point before everything fell apart. Ag an bpointe seo, admhaím go dtacaím leis an ngnó anocht agus amárach mar beidh seans ag muintir Bhaile Átha Cliath vótáil i gcomhair méara. Overall, I am in favour of the main thrust of both Bills. In a sense, it is difficult to separate them. Even though there are differences between what is proposed tonight and what is proposed tomorrow, the basic premise of both is an opportunity for a directly elected Lord Mayor or Mayor of Dublin. There is enough common ground between the two to come to a consensus. When Deputy Eamon Ryan moved his Bill, he said he was looking forward to working with others in the Dáil and Seanad to make this a reality.

Fianna Fáil is looking for a plebiscite in 2018 to give voters in Dublin an opportunity to give their views on whether this should be a reality with the vote probably being held in 2019. I note the Government's amendment, which also fits in as part of overall local government reform measures because it allows for consultation with relevant stakeholders with a report by mid-2017. That could lead into the Fianna Fáil motion. There may not be a need for a plebiscite depending on what that report indicates. The 2018 plebiscite in the Fianna Fáil motion gives people the opportunity to decide if they would like the idea to be progressed whereas I believe the Green Party is saying that this could be a reality for 2019.

It is difficult to talk about tonight's business in isolation from tomorrow. I am looking at what I see as positive in respect of the issue itself between the two. I know we go back to the 13th century when a charter was granted for the office of Lord Mayor. It seems that at that stage, mayors did have real powers albeit some that involved the use of violence. There are four authorities in Dublin - Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. While Dublin is the capital with a population of some 1.3 million, it is incredible that we have four local authorities and four mayors even though only one has the title of Lord Mayor, which I know is problematic for some people as a relic of British power. It is probably not quite a relic of British imperialism as Great Britain had not really embarked on its empire building at that stage, only its immediate neighbours. If changes were introduced, I would favour the word "mayor" as opposed to putting "lord" in front of it. There are three mayors and one Lord Mayor in Dublin. We know their roles are, in the main, symbolic. They attend functions, perform openings, make speeches at events and attend and organise conferences depending on their personal area of interest.

The interest of the current Lord Mayor of Dublin was in organising a conference on crime in the city. I acknowledge the work of a previous Ardmhéar, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, regarding the historic Moore Street battlefield site.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin gets a "161-D-1" car, can live in the Mansion House if he or she chooses, gets to jaunt in the lovely carriage on St. Patrick's Day, gets to host events, for example, when Dublin wins the All-Ireland Football Championship, or when we have various individuals, groups or teams returning to Ireland via Dublin after some sporting, cultural or literary event or competition. Yesterday, I attended an event at which the current Lord Mayor launched the International Dublin Literary Awards. The Lord Mayor also chairs the monthly meetings of the council. I am sure the mayors in the other three authorities perform similar roles. The common denominator is that it is very much the same and it is very much symbolic. How much of a difference are they making to the life of Dubliners and the city of Dublin? If the Lord Mayor was not there and was not carrying out those events as Lord Mayor or mayor, while the communities are delighted to see them coming out, life will go on and someone else could perform those roles.

The job of the mayor or Lord Mayor is in the gift of the political party or political grouping in that authority, which is not good enough for the voters in the Dublin area or for voters anywhere. We need to take the opportunity that is being given tonight and tomorrow and with the Government amendment to bring about change that will make a difference. We think of the mayors in London and New York as examples of authoritative figures with the power to make a difference. One of those is the recent C40 initiative from the Paris climate change agreement. Many mayors in European cities are taking a very proactive role on this because they want to achieve the goals set in Paris and they can do that because they have the power to do so. Many European cities have directly-elected mayors with power and influence.

At this stage as power lies with the unelected officials, there are questions regarding accountability. I do not say that a directly-elected mayor will solve all the problems of Dublin, but it makes much more sense than our people in predominantly symbolic roles that have been used as bargaining tools within each council in the gift of the political party or grouping taking it in turn over the course of the life of that authority.

Part of tomorrow's debate will centre on establishing a regional authority for Dublin. The details in that Bill are very clear and manageable. If we get it right in Dublin, it will be a template for Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick. Getting it right means clear areas of responsibility, such as planning, waste management, housing, transport and infrastructure, and tourism, with a practical realistic budget with a fixed term and the necessary staff and advisers.

It also means having somebody who has a vision for Dublin, and that vision for Dublin has to fit into the vision for Ireland. It needs to be a vision that is fit not just for the following one or two terms of office, but takes cognisance of the fact that whatever decisions are being made will have an effect on generations to come.

I know directly-elected mayors could also feed into populism, given that a mayor would have to keep an eye on re-election. However, with fixed terms and fixed time limits for being a mayor, it could be solved. My preference would be for one fixed term of five years and then not being eligible for re-election for another five; or a three-year fixed term with an ability to stand for re-election directly after, but then a gap before being allowed to stand again.

A directly-elected mayor also means greater democracy and accountability. It could make a real difference in the areas of housing, planning, tourism and transport, where some disastrous decisions have been made in the past. It is about better co-ordination, better planning and forward planning.

I support the principle of directly-elected mayors along with either the report, as the Government amendment suggests, or the plebiscite, as Fianna Fáil suggests, or both. Both of them will feed into the Green Party's proposal - I note that Deputy Eamon Ryan said it is capable of being amended. Overall, having the opportunity to vote for such a mayor will be better for democracy, and better for those communities that feel disengaged and disillusioned. We know about low voter turnout, which we see particularly in areas of Dublin. This could perhaps get people more engaged in the process. We also have a few years to ensure everything is right for it.

I am very proud to be able to speak on the Bill. I think I have a slight obligation to explain what is going on politically - although to be honest, I am not sure what is going on politically. Perhaps in the explaining we could get a bit of clarity.

As I said in introducing our Bill, I would be quite happy to insert the provisions of the Fianna Fáil Bill into our Bill. As Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan has suggested, it would fit reasonably well. Our party has always believed in consultation and the idea of a plebiscite makes a certain amount of sense, so we would quite happily support that.

There is more going on. To a certain extent there is a three-way play going on. It is very good to see the Minister, Deputy Coveney, here. He is suggesting that we could do a bit of consultation before the consultation mentioned in the Fianna Fáil Bill, before putting the question to the people. I have no objection to that. The nature of politics here at the moment is that we should be working with each other. It is not necessarily new politics, but rather could be described as politics of pause for thought.

When I was thinking about the detail of whether we should have a lord mayor or just a mayor, I was thinking that poor old Lord Miriam was outside at the bottom of the steps earlier today and they had the smelling salts out trying to revive her, she was in such a state. She has to write about what is going on here and she said, "For God's sake, will you give us a story. Where's the fight?" I said to her, "Listen, there's a fight going on between ourselves and Fianna Fáil at the moment on what in God's name we're going to do with this whole Bill and process." I found myself appearing on the "Drivetime" programme with Deputy Lahart. We were like two boxers shaping up - seconds out, round two - and it turned into a ballet, where we were both swinging, but not exactly landing and not even trying to land against each other because I think we do not fundamentally disagree on the idea of having to have a mayor. That is not much of an explanation of the politics of what is going on.

I look forward to the debate on the details of our Bill tomorrow, and maybe we can hear from the Minister, Deputy Coveney, on how his proposed consultation might work. We deserve to hear that as part of the pre-consultation to the consultation to the plebiscite to - please God - the landing 16 years after Noel Dempsey first put out the idea. We have been consulting in real detail with all parties over the years, which is why we presented a very detailed Bill.

I offer a few thoughts on the nature of consultation. We should be honest and recognise that consultation on political process stuff is not easy. As soon as I leave here tonight, I will head to the Tara Towers Hotel to attend a public meeting about the Merrion Gates. I assure Deputies that the hall will be packed and that everyone will have a view on the specifics of the traffic management arrangements and how it affects local housing. If I put up a notice next week that we were thinking of having a consultation on what sorts of executive powers a mayor might have versus the current system, or whether a regional authority should have 15 or 30 members, we all know that it would not exactly lead to a full hall. There would be some political anoraks there, but it is not an easy thing to consult about. I would be interested to hear from Fianna Fáil as to how it believes the consultation might work.

I would also be interested to know how a plebiscite might work. My instinct is that one of the ways we could get this over the line and make it happen is by having an answer to journalists' questions when they put the microphones up and ask how much it will cost, and being able to say we can do this in a way without implying a cost. That is one question I have on a plebiscite. Holding a full referendum plebiscite is reasonably expensive. Is there a way of doing this without such expense? That is one of the concerns people have. I would be interested to get the detail of how the plebiscite will work. Those details are not particularly covered in the Bill as I read it. It would be useful to get those sorts of details.

This is the main point I have to make tonight and I look forward to hearing the Minister's response. If we are going to go through this consultation process, this is a good time for such consultation. I am all for consultation and involving the public as much as we can. We have a little bit of time as the election date in 2019 is not straight ahead.

We must be careful to not just use it as a prevarication period but we have a little bit of time. If we have this opportunity, my instinct is that consultation should also look at how we get a directly elected mayor for Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Kilkenny. I pick those places specifically because I believe that we need to get our cities right in terms of where we go from here. That is not to run down the importance of more rural councils or other councils around the State but there are very particular problems in our cities in transport, housing, planning and economic development. These are problems that are specific to cities and we need to get to the understanding that is self-evident and true, that the success of Dublin as a city depends on, and is helped by, the success of Cork as a city and vice versa. It is not a case of Dublin versus Cork, Cork versus Limerick, Galway versus Waterford or any other possible combination. We are competing internationally in a globalised economy that even Donald Trump cannot totally reverse. The economic competition is occurring between cities. If one of Ireland's cities is strong the others can be strong too. Let us use the opportunity to get a directly elected mayor for Cork. I have my views on how it could be done. I would be happy to engage in a consultation process to try to share those views so that come June - if the Minister's timeline is set for June in terms of having it all ready to go - we could have a proposal ready for Cork, Galway, Waterford, Limerick and Kilkenny in that timeframe.

On a process around consultation, which is the central point to the Bill, I would be interested to hear the Minister's views on the following idea. To a certain extent we are going to go out with the national planning framework and also do a consultation process around the very same reasons we need a directly elected mayor such as the sense of long-term vision as to where housing is placed, how we develop our transport system, how we see our cities going green, how we develop green spaces and the big vision thinking. In this moment of politics we need to pause for thought. The national planning framework should be centre stage in all our work here. If we do not get this right, when we turn on the tap of capital expenditure, which will turn on - according to the Minister for Finance in any presentations I have seen - in 2019-2020. This is why we have just one or two years in which to think about this. We already have some ideas as to where the funding should go for transport, housing and other infrastructure investments. This is not something where we wait for 2019 and then wait for some smart, directly elected mayor to come along and say: "I have an idea to develop the centre of the city rather than the outskirts." We need to start answering some of those processes now. I say that we should integrate the consultation into the bigger, more important fundamental questions that we must ask around how we see our cities develop to 2040 so that for once we start doing proper long-term investment planning.

I do not know if the Ceann Comhairle was there when Mr. Derry Gray, the president of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce said at a recent dinner that team Dublin needs to get together. They all recognise that we are lousy at this at the moment and we have let our cities down. We have a great city but we have not served the people well with the disjointed lack of long-term co-ordinated thinking in planning and transport. I want an elected mayor so there would be an actual office and we could say: "That is your job, pull everyone together and make sure it happens." That call from the business community is not insignificant. I stand up for every community regarding the need for a directly elected mayor as it is also a social project, but the business community knows where the economy is going in this city. The business community knows that our economic development is in peril and it is due, more than anything else, to the lack of long-term thinking, investment, and good planning in housing, transport and other infrastructure. If we get that in place our city, and indeed Cork, Galway, Waterford, Limerick and Kilkenny can thrive. Let us do that as part of the consultation on a directly elected mayor rather than just going out and asking people if it should be a regional authority of 15 or of 30. That will not inspire people and we need to inspire people with something slightly bigger and something slightly more.

I thank Deputy Ryan. With all that talk about ballet I am grateful that at least he was not pirouetting on the plinth, as has been suggested previously.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate, particularly to comment on the specific proposals put forward by Deputy Lahart. I am very pleased that it is not overly prescriptive and that we are entering a period of consultation in determining what should be the roles and functions of a directly elected mayor. That is a worthwhile exercise. I listened to Deputy Ryan's contribution and his concern around having a meeting and who might turn up and so forth. There are two elements to doing a consultation. Obviously there is a public element to which anybody should have an opportunity to contribute. It is also important to engage with the stakeholders who would subsequently be responsible for delivery of services. There needs to be a structure to the consultation process and that is a matter for the Minister. It is really important that it develops and that the Members of the House and those outside it have a contribution to make. If they do then the plebiscite is more meaningful to them. Sometimes when there is a mixed group, such as the group in this House, one is told that it will never come to a consensus, and while I previously might have held that view I do not subscribe to it now. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan has sat on a committee with Members of all parties and none and produced a housing report. By and large there was a lot of consensus because we did not come in to the committee with our own particular ideas, we listened to the expert witnesses and we formed opinions based on the evidence that was presented in front of us. I would like to think that the consultation process for this new directly elected mayor would develop in that way.

While I speak enthusiastically about a directly elected mayor I want it on the record that I very much favour the retention of the four local authorities, and their input, as we have them. I remember when we had a Dublin county council and people were doing development plans for a great area rather than for the smaller areas we now have. The current system is much more meaningful. Councillors are engaged in their own counties with populations of maybe 250,000 and are involved in their local area committees for the development of local development plans at a level where people know what is going on. It is meaningful and we do not have a situation where a person from Balbriggan, for example, is talking about issues in Clondalkin or Lucan, or where a person from Clondalkin and Lucan is talking about developments on the other side of the city. It is much more tangible and real. During this process I do not want to lose what we have gained in recent years since the establishment of the four Dublin local authorities. It has been very beneficial.

That being said, I am acutely conscious that the population of Dublin is due to grow by around 600,000 in the 30 year period up to 2050. That is very substantial growth and if it is to be accommodated in a serious and meaningful way and if we are not to be constantly chasing infrastructure and facilities, then it must be planned and managed on a county-wide basis. For example, a decade ago there was a proposal to have a metro west project. It was a good idea then and most people subscribed to it, but we know that due to the economic situation it could not be delivered. It is more worrying that while the metro north project continues, the metro west project as a vision for Dublin is no longer included in plans for capital investment. I am not talking about capital investment this year or next year. Deputy Ryan is right. We need a vision for five, ten and 20 years. That type of infrastructure requires that type of planning. If a city is to grow by 600,000 people in a 30 year period it needs a co-ordinated approach to economic activity, location of industry, the roles of industry and education, the locations of centres of excellence based around third level institutions, transport and housing. All of these need to be dealt with on a co-ordinated Dublin wide basis, not on the basis of local authorities competing with each other. There must be a vision for a greater Dublin area. Other European cities have directly elected mayors. It is not the directly elected mayor per se, it is the role and responsibilities that go with the position that are key to this. The consultation process will be crucial in that regard. Deputy Ryan is right, and I believe that Dublin - as a capital city - is not competing with Cork and Waterford. We are competing with other European capital cities and we need to have a vision that will make people want to live here, invest here and work here and that we will provide a capital city that will equal any of our European counterparts. The purpose and function of having a directly elected mayor and the office that will go with the position is to co-ordinate across housing, transport and all the key areas on a county wide basis and not to overrun and overrule the work being done by local authorities in their capacities. There will have to be a balancing of the powers of a new mayor with the existing powers of the four local authorities. I am conscious that I have gone over time so I will conclude and allow time to Deputy Chambers.

I acknowledge the work done by my colleague, Deputy John Lahart, in preparing this legislation. As Deputies Eamon Ryan and Curran said, we can all work on this together as a collective. The benefit of the legislation versus what the Green Party has presented is that it is not overly prescriptive. It is important to have a broad and wide public consultation process with stakeholders, the public and councillors to see what powers they want devolved and what powers of many of the agencies of the State could potentially be in the remit of a directly elected mayor.

One of the four Dublin local authorities is in my area, which borders two others. The chief executives work extremely well together. On housing, for example, Paul Reid, the CEO of Fingal County Council, has done phenomenal work and is an excellent chief executive. It is not about robbing the powers of councillors or the executive branch of local authorities, but trying to give an impetus to proper policy making and providing an overarching and co-ordinated approach to selling Dublin at home and abroad. We lack this. While the Lord Mayor does excellent work, and we also have mayors in the four local authorities, there is no proper co-ordination on policy or on making Dublin attractive as an international city vis-à-vis other competitor cities. It is important we do not pitch this proposal, as was mentioned previously, against other areas and regions of the country which require attention and investment.

On a basic point from my experience, parts of Dublin 15 are in Dublin City Council, others are in Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council borders the Liffey side. When I tried to present an idea on the extension of the Dublin bike scheme, I was met with a bureaucratic wall. I was told it was a Dublin City Council initiative and it would be very difficult to extend it to other suburban areas outside the city council area. If we had a mayor who took policy on a physical activity such as cycling, cut the red tape between the local authorities and drove an overarching cross local authority strategy, it would work positively to the benefit of citizens throughout Dublin.

Taking the web summit as an example, we heard about more red tape and difficulties on transport, policing and trying to make Dublin a proper product for various companies and investors who want to come here and set up something. We saw how Lisbon was a much easier place to establish such a large summit. If we look at some of the international examples of policing, such as what Giuliani did in New York by taking a zero tolerance approach to crime, there are many areas with potential regarding the possibilities for the devolution of powers. A directly elected mayor could show leadership and a process of accountability to the people. Many people complain to us. At the weekend, someone with a shop in the north inner city which has been burgled, robbed and smashed a number of times complained to me that despite interactions with gardaí, the person feels there is not a proper policing presence. There is no co-ordinator in our city to look at policing and other areas of responsibility. This legislation provides an open process of public consultation, which would incorporate some of the ideas of the Green Party and others, but would put forward a model that is accountable to the House and would be agreed by the Oireachtas. This is an important democratic threshold in the legislation. The Minister could not grant whatever executive powers he or she sees fit. It is up to the Oireachtas to decide, and subsequently there will be a directly elected mayor, hopefully in 2019. It would provide a great impetus for Dublin as a city. I hope it can be progressed positively through the Stages in the House. I thank my colleague, Deputy Lahart, for the work he has done.

I thank Deputy Lahart in particular, who had the courtesy to contact me before introducing the legislation to the Dáil. He has already engaged in a very genuine way in trying to ensure this actually happens, rather than simply having a political debate on it. To be fair, Deputy Ryan is in the same class. From my perspective, we will do something significant in this area. I am committed to having a serious consultation process with a view to trying to bring forward actual proposals by the middle of next year. This is our commitment in the programme for Government. This is not a consultation pre-consultation pre-plebiscite. This is ensuring that if we do this, we do it properly.

I know that while there have been attempts in the past to introduce legislation for a plebiscite and to introduce a directly elected mayor for Dublin, the view is the legislation introduced then, which is very similar to what Deputy Ryan proposes to introduce tomorrow evening, would need some alterations and changes and more consideration before we could support it. This has nothing to do with new politics; it is simply that I would like to get this right. What Deputy Chambers said is true also. We need to consult with local representatives in Dublin and with existing mayors and chief executives.

Dublin is a huge driver not just of its own metropolitan area in terms of economic development, opportunities and revenue raising, but of the country in terms of Ireland's economy. We will be opening a public process to develop a new national planning framework by the middle of next year, which will envisage what Ireland should look like, if we plan for it properly, by 2040. An extra 1 million people will be living in Ireland by then. Certainly 40%, if not 50%, of them will live in and around the Dublin metropolitan area. Dublin Chamber of Commerce has a vision 2050 project for Dublin in terms of what it should look like, how people will move around, how we can plan for this and how we can prepare for it.

If we look at the challenge, the national planning framework will have to accommodate population growth in other parts of the country. The biggest element of it will be a new cities strategy for Ireland, whereby cities can be regional drivers in various parts of Ireland, whether it is Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny or elsewhere. We are speaking about planning for an expanding growing country in a way that takes on many of the other challenges we must face, whether they are climate change, finding jobs and creating jobs for people or having a balanced and sustainable economic growth model that does not result in thousands of Irish people having to leave the country to find work or having huge immigration issues as the economy accelerates out of recession. This has been the type of management we have seen in Ireland linked to property and unsustainable economic models, and this is what we need to change.

Part of the process, in my view, is co-ordinated leadership at city level in Ireland, Dublin being the obvious and most important example. At present, I am working with a very dedicated team of executives in the four local authorities in Dublin, and a very committed series of councils, on homelessness and housing. Within six weeks, Dublin City Council will have planned for, provided for and constructed an extra 210 emergency beds for homeless people this winter in high quality new units. We have had to use emergency powers to be able to make this happen quickly. It will be done by 9 December. On nights like tonight, with the temperatures we are experiencing, we would do well to remind ourselves of the challenges we all face.

The idea that we would not seek to have more co-ordination and more leadership coming from a single office representing the entire Dublin metropolitan area would be failing in our duties to look in a more ambitious way at how we can plan for the future. This is not to undermine existing structures or existing councils.

I am talking about a co-ordination role where an individual who holds the office understands his or her city in an intimate way. It will be a person who has been directly elected by the people, giving him or her a mandate to represent the city at home and abroad in a proactive, enthusiastic and, perhaps, idealistic but certainly positive way. This is something from which Dublin would benefit significantly. Mayors in other cities in other parts of Europe have become key figures in attracting interest and investment, have enhanced reputations and tried to lead cities in a new direction, whether through design, a financial services sector or whatever else. They can come up with a specific plan to solve key problems that we are perhaps struggling with at present because of a lack of co-ordination, social housing being an obvious example. That can only be a good thing.

We are proposing amendments - both this evening and tomorrow evening - in which we ask both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to ensure that in the next six months we work intensively together and engage in consultation in order to get a new structure that we can put to the people in a plebiscite. We will set out what we think will work for Dublin and we may bring forward similar proposals, if it makes sense to do so, for Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Should we have a political figurehead for Dublin, our capital city, who has real power? Does the Government have the capacity to devolve power from, say, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport or the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to a new office that can help focus - on a daily basis - on improving the quality of life across this city of over 1 million people? My job is to operate nationally but also to work with councils to co-ordinate a response on many of the issues in respect of which citizens across this city want the political system to provide solutions.

In the past 20 years I have witnessed a steady decline in respect for politics and in the way people look at the political system. We need to act collectively to change that. One of the ways we can do so is by inviting people to choose a champion for their city and giving that person powers. We can then get to work to ensure that this person, who is currently answerable to existing councils, will also have real powers to engage and co-ordinate responses that are more appropriate at a local level for a city like Dublin rather than, for example, trying to do things through this Chamber.

Let us try to design a system that can work and get the endorsement of the people for that. If we do that, it will be a success. If we try to outmanoeuvre each other and make it party political by seeing who can have the cleverest idea around a mayor for Dublin, we will probably fail in our efforts. Who knows how long this Government will last? It will probably not last a full term and this is one of the things I would like to get done. I want to work on this issue with a politician, Deputy Lahart, I consider to be quite sincere and with Deputy Eamon Ryan and the Green Party. I am sure the other political parties will want to work on this as well, judging by what we have heard this evening. I will focus the resources of my Department on trying to get this right in the next six months or so. Hopefully, we will come back with a joint proposal that we can put to the people of Dublin in a plebiscite and we can get their endorsement for setting up the office so that everybody will know what they are voting for and it can all take effect in 2019, when the next local government elections are due to take place.

I appeal to people to work with me on that. My motivation is to get this right for a capital city that will be the largest English-speaking city in the European Union, and the only English-speaking capital, in the not-too-distant future. A mayor or Lord Mayor, directly elected by the people and with real power rather than being a figurehead, would enhance the way Dublin is managed and functions. Members have a commitment to do that in a genuine way and I hope they will work with me on it.

I thank those from all parties who contributed to what has been a discussion, not a debate. Everybody had constructive things to say. We all come into public service for different reasons. I look at Dublin as a Dubliner and, like many of my colleagues, I served as a local authority member for a number of years. I see the efficacy of the work of the four Dublin local authorities. However, one would really have to have no sight not to see the deficits and the challenges that face Dublin as a region.

This is not about Dublin competing with the rest of the country but about situating it in the context of other city regions. The Minister said that Dublin is the only English-language city in a post-Brexit scenario and that there is a market out there for English-language international education. We are behind the curve on this. This is not a political point. We could be the centre of English-language education, a market of billions, but we developed a reputation for rogue colleges in the past four or five years.

I have a lot of time for Deputy Eamon Ryan going back over a long period but I feel that, like a traditional politician, he believes there is a bit of competition here. However, I only want what he and the Minister want and I do not care how it happens. It is a privilege to have been able to introduce this plebiscite Bill. I think Dubliners ought to be able to have a say and I take the Minister at his word and accept his sincerity on the timeline. I do not think the amendment affects the timeline and if he can give a commitment that he can deliver it within that timeline, then we will be on schedule for delivering a plebiscite around the same time.

Make sure there is no general election in the meantime.

We have been working very hard and we have played our part in that. Nobody here envisages a diminished role for councillors or councils. In fact, everybody agrees that we should enhance their roles. I accept that point about business people coming to Ireland but I do not want to get hung up on business people. Business drives a lot of things in Dublin but there is a danger that those involved in it can be seen as an elite. There has been a real reaction to elites globally and to people who presume to know what is best for everybody else. This has to have reach into communities at every social and socioeconomic level. Brexit creates an urgency about some of the issues that have been mentioned.

Some Members spoke of how the chief executives of the four Dublin local authorities have had great powers conferred on them but I remember when chief executives and former county managers had such powers because politicians could not make the difficult decisions.

They would not make the difficult choices. The particular instance involving the former Minister, Noel Dempsey, was a clear example of that.

Deputy Ó Broin mentioned the London model, where the mayor started off with a modest range of powers, which were then increased. That is what they did in London and Westminster, on two occasions since its mayoral inauguration, has conferred additional powers on the mayor of London. I thank the Sinn Féin contributors, including Deputy Ó Snodaigh. When the former Minister, now Commissioner, Phil Hogan, put forward his proposals, we were given a very tight timeline, and that is best forgotten about.

I agree with Deputy Jan O'Sullivan that we should not only focus on the London model. We should not be slavish about the models we examine but we can borrow some elements from them. She mentioned the Vancouver model. I have a nephew who lives there. It is a beautiful city and I have visited it, but it has a colossal drugs problem. It is not all light and sunshine there either.

The most disadvantaged areas in Ireland still remain in Dublin. Dublin has the largest population and the biggest contribution to gross domestic product comes from Dublin. Dublin is a city of international statute and standing and it is matter of building on that.

I remember during the first phase of the former Minister, Phil Hogan's consultation being met by a man from the community in Tallaght who attended a public consultation meeting and who was against the idea of having a directly elected mayor for this city. This reinforces the point of keeping our existing local authority structure with their cathaoirligh or mayors because he said that he liked to know who his mayor is and to have access to the mayor. It is important for many communities that its members can drop into County Hall in Tallaght, Swords or Dún Laoghaire and meet their politicians face to face. He felt that if there was a directly elected mayor for the city such access would become remote but that with the powers and functions of a directly elected mayor the city would be completely different.

As for the Minister's written response, I accept my Bill is devoid of detail. This measure could not happen if he was a Minister in a Government with a whopping overall majority. It could simply be swatted away or he could come up with proposals that he wants and run them through with a coach and four without amendment. What I put forward was very deliberate. I will be talking about Deputy Eamon Ryan's Bill tomorrow night, as the Green Party is introducing a Bill. I see a few gaps in it and I will be pointing them out not in a negative way but to explain where I am coming from in proposing a plebiscite and conferring all the powers on the Minister's office because, theoretically, his office has all the facilities and resources of State at its disposal in terms of preparing legislation. That would then be brought before this House and because this is a minority Government, the Minister cannot ram it through. What could be more democratic than if the Minister were to present a raft of proposals for a directly elected mayor and all the other Deputies would get to debate them, propose meaningful changes and impact on them positively if they see fit? That is from where I was coming on that. I agree there is some good technical architecture in the Green Party's Bill but I will leave it until tomorrow evening's debate to talk about that.

Before the Minister spoke, the June deadline could have given the impression of a desire on his part to drag this out but I take him at his word. I have much admiration for him as a public servant and his family has a long history of public service, so I am taking him at his word and will not look for any written agreement on that.

My colleague, Deputy Jack Chambers, spoke about there being no co-ordination around policy and issues in that regard. There are mayoral models abroad. There is not only the London model. Alain Juppé is trying to make a come-back, in seeking to be the next President of France, on the back of a really successful period as mayor of Bordeaux, having transformed that city. Copenhagen, which, in a very healthy way reviews how it does democracy on a pretty regular cycle, is an impressive city to visit and from which to draw. I do not suggest that we would be slavish about following the London model because that city is on a much bigger scale than Dublin but we should cast our eyes in terms of research and planning, as has Dublin Chamber of Commerce, which has spent quite some time in Copenhagen examining its model and how long the authorities there plan ahead. One of the most significant things it learned is that when a city has a plan for 30 years, 40 years or 50 years and when it is seen to implement aspects of it, investment follows quite quickly because investors can see these guys and girls know what they are about, have an A-to-Z plan and will follow it through in good times and bad times. The investors then want to invest in that and want to help them make it happen.

I will finish on the headbanger argument. Many colleagues and people say that only a headbanger, a populist or a celebrity will get the position of mayor of Dublin. This again comes back to one of the purposes behind my non-prescriptive approach. As the Minister emphasised, when people go to a plebiscite on this issue and if they pass it, they will know what functions and powers are at the disposal of a mayor. There will be no mayoral candidate who will be able to say he or she can take on the world and will do this and will do that. The voters of Dublin, who are smart people, will say these are the powers the mayor has and will ask him or her how do they propose to make that happen. One of the weaknesses in Deputy Ryan's Bill is that on election, a mayor would have four or five months to come up with a plan, whereas I would hope that the plan begins on day one and if the mayor is elected we would know what powers he or she has and what plans he or she has to implement. There would be an expectation on the day following the mayor's election that he or she would just go on and do it. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for give me the additional time. That is what would prevent the headbanger argument from winning out because the people would know what to expect from their mayor.

I thank Deputies on all sides of the House.

Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, put and agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until 10 a.m. on 23 November 2016.