Galway West TD Hilgedarde Naughton has thrown her support behind the Taoiseach’s proposal to directly elect the Mayor of Galway from next year.
Currently the Mayor of Galway is chosen by the other members of the city council. It’s a mostly ceremonial role, with the Mayor having no more powers than any other councillor.
The Fine Gael TD said that a Mayor chosen by the voters, with expanded powers, would enable voters in the city to have a greater say in local government.
“I was honoured and privileged to serve as Mayor of Galway in 2011/12. Being Mayor of such a fantastic city something I will always look back on with immense pride.”
“However, I am also aware of the limitations of the role. Being elected Mayor confers no additional power or ability to change policy or drive any particular aspect of policy forward. The power is entirely one of persuasion.”
“In nearly every way that matters, the council executive holds the reins of power and councillors, and particularly the Mayor, do not have sufficient powers to affect change.”
The proposal made by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was included in a letter he sent to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin this week.
It was one a number of measures included in a package to extend the supply-and-confidence agreement that has supported the minority government since the 2016 election.
However Micheál Martin has said there will be no talks on a deal before the budget.
Since the Mayor of Galway is currently chosen from among councillors, and only has to run for election in their own ward, Deputy Naughton suggests that changes to the system would make the office more representative of the city.
“It would see the Mayor responsible to the entire electorate of Galway, not just a particular electoral ward. It would mean that a Mayor could implement change required by the electorate in Galway City.”
“It would mean voters having actual powers to effect change in their own city. It would radically democratise local government in Galway and is a change I wholeheartedly support,” Deputy Naughton said.
It was also suggested by the Deputy that the one year term of office for the Mayor is not sufficient time to get to grips with the many problems and issues the city has to tackle.
Galway city has been plagued by ongoing housing and congestion crises, and other major issues demand the city leadership’s attention like the buildup to Galway 2020, which has already hit more than its fair share of speed bumps.
“The office holder has only one year in which to persuade the executive of the City Council of the merits of a particular course of action.
“They also have to persuade each and every member of the City Council, of all parties and none, of the wisdom of a particular policy,” she said.
The Taoiseach has proposed that a vote be held next year asking the people if they wish for a directly elected Mayor.
The government would then draw up legislation which, if it passes through the Dáil, could result in the first Mayoral elections being held in 2020/2021.