Ask A Broadsheet Reader



Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris

Louis Le Fronde writes:

As a French-Canadian looking from the outside-in. Might I ask a couple of simple questions?

Why do you not have directly elected mayors in Ireland?

Why is it that Dublin, your capital city does not have a directly elected mayor with executive power, when it is pretty obvious it needs one?

I’m sure, I can predict some of the stock answers readers of Broadsheet are likely to give, including the fear that certain politicians might have, such as your prime minister feeling overshadowed by a strong Mayor in Dublin (it wouldn’t be hard). But such is the nature of politics. It was ever thus.

Nevertheless, I thought I might raise these questions with you directly.

And to those first two questions might I add three more?

Is it not absurd that Ireland does not have a system of directly elected mayors?

Is it not absurd, that Dublin which is marketed as a dynamic European city, does not have a directly elected mayor?

and finally,

What are you going to do about it?


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87 thoughts on “Ask A Broadsheet Reader

  1. Bertie Blenkinsop

    As a Dublin man looking from the inside out.

    Might I ask a couple of simple questions?

    Why do you constantly seek to criticise and complain about Dublin?

    It’s tiresome and irritating although I suspect that’s possibly your intention.

    1. louisefronde

      Because as an outsider looking-in, I see a city that could be so much better than it is. If you take a closer look at it’s fabric you will see that it was once a very beautiful city, that was let go to pot. Over the last thirty years, obvious improvements have not taken place, that should have and could have been done. And while you might find my ‘observations tiresome and irritating’ perhaps you need someone from the outside to point out the obvious and challenge you to think beyond the end of your nose.

  2. karlj

    Why is there a photo of the Maire de Paris? The questioner is Canadien, therefore a photo of the directly elected maire of Ville de Québec or Montréal would be more appropriate.

  3. karlj

    I suspect that our dear politicians in Ireland would feel it removes power from them if we had directly elected mayors.

    1. louisefronde

      If that be the case, then you should take it back from them. After all, you either own the property or you don’t!

  4. Jake38

    Q.” Why do you not have directly elected mayors in Ireland?.

    A. Because then someone might actually be responsible for something.

  5. Grouse

    I so want to answer these questions, but they are posed so rudely I don’t think it would be a good idea.

  6. Jack

    In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

    1. louisefronde

      So you’re upset? Well, too bad.

      The topic is there to challenge and to pose questions. If you don’t question, then you are not thinking. Advancement is based on questioning the ‘accepted order of things’, challenging assumptions and creating dialogue. If that amounts to being a troll, then a troll I am. But what if you are mistaken? And what if the questions posed, are designed to ‘shake things up’ and the motive behind those questions, isa genuine desire to improve the governance of the city.

      Put simply if you own something, but the tenants who you have elected to occupy it, have done more harm than good, would it not be in your best interest to evict them, take back what is yours and put in tenants who will improve the property?

  7. bisted

    …this should be titled ‘ask a Broadsheet contributor’…two of the influencers on this old chestnut were Derek Mooney who convinced the FF party that an elected mayor would pose a threat to the leader and the greens…ah the greens…this was another cause they kicked around for their sojourn in government…the FFers never had to veto this because it was in the incompetent hands of the greens…

  8. Owen C

    Because most things are still funded from central government. It’s not like this is a secret or difficult to find out.

    1. De Kloot

      Oh, and before I forget – that’s all we need… another corrupt bureaucratic layer for our civil society….

      1. Clampers Outside!

        I think that’s it… over the years many have picked up ideas of the lazy Councillor, politician or other state funded position, and many I do believe, just don’t see the point in creating another unaccountable job for some failed Councillor or politician… and why would anyone blame them.

  9. Murtles

    We have County Councils and County Managers who professionally squander our money thank you very much, we don’t need amateurs squandering it.

    1. louisefronde

      Because, you passively allow them to squander your money, because you won’t take ownership.

  10. Joe835

    A few reasons, Louis!

    First is the inherent Irish distrust of authority. No Irish tradition of nation-building exists; the closest thing we had to an idealogue working for the good of the real, 26-county state we are was the recently-departed T.K. Whitaker and he never ran for office. Irish people are either indifferent to or outright hate authority, a hangover from colonial days, and we’re never quite comfortable with the idea of someone who seeks power because we assume that person is looking to glorify themselves, line their pockets or both.

    Secondly is the Irish hatred for Dublin. Dublin exists almost apologetically as the capital city; in reality, most Irish people see it as the biggest tribe with the biggest town and therefore the most resources. It’s not our capital, it’s Dublin people’s capital. Regardless of the sense it might make to divert huge resources into simply maintaining it at its current size, voters outside Dublin resent it as a massive national distraction and see things like an A&E unit in their local town as a sign of prestige more worthy of investment than, say, the Luas or a directly-elected mayor.

    Thirdly is the local councils fear of being sidelined. Dublin has four local authorities but three of them exist in a similarly-apologetic stance. Sometimes they’re marked on maps, sometimes they’re not. But no-one would dare suggest that as a result of Fingal, South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown existing for the past 23 years, Ireland now has 29 counties because local authorities = local identity and Irish people zealously guard this. Not consciously, but just watch how many people dispute that those three counties are “proper counties”. They don’t exist in the GAA so they may as well disappear.

    As a result, those three counties are slightly-uncomfortable with the idea of a Dublin mayor simply ruling over them and/or making them even more irrelevant. So they fought the idea of a Dublin mayor for many years; two gave in during the last vote but Fingal held out, so we still don’t have a Dublin mayor.

    Finally, and this is my own two cents, where and what is Dublin anyway? The Irish love of the county boundary means that any sensible reorganisation of local authorities based on what are actually coherent localities and regions, as opposed to what the GAA and traditional counties are, means that a Dublin mayor’s reach will likely end at the borders of the traditional county of Dublin, which is ludicrous to outsiders.

    Parts of adjoining counties have effectively been parts of Dublin for 20-30 years already, if not longer. Places like Bray, Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth, south Meath – even Drogheda and Navan are arguably part of the Greater Dublin Region and yet any debate about a Dublin mayor is unlikely to ever suggest annexing parts of other counties to ensure a proper, coherent Dublin area is properly-administered by an authority that sees the whole picture, not what those in a distant “county town” think is relevant.

    If you don’t believe this is the case, try driving in as close to a straight line as possible from any two towns within 30km of Dublin – it’s very difficult because no local authority troubles themselves with improving transport links between parts of a Greater Dublin Area they all refuse to acknowledge exists. Job 1 of a future Dublin mayor would be to develop a strategy for the entire region, not just County Dublin, and that would be a massive change in government for this country.

    Disregarding county boundaries would be good for the rest of the country too, because it makes cities bigger and more feasible. Limerick should be taking in the suburban areas that are in Co. Clare, Waterford should encompass all of the adjacent Co. Kilkenny areas and towns like Carlow, Portarlington, Athlone, Drogheda and Carrick-on-Shannon would all benefit from proper local authorities that disregard the traditional county boundaries. Then we might have a chance at sensible local government in Ireland.

    But until then, we’ll just sit on our hands

    1. Frilly Keane

      Now that’s a winning post

      BTW. Not to nit pic but you neglected the voting pacts Dublin City Councillors swear allegiance to
      From their cold dead hands stuff

      1. Joe835

        Absolutely, well that just shows how sick the system is right now – they don’t even compete so much as take turns.

        I’d be all for doing away with every county as it currently stands and re-drawing boundaries as per the needs of populations within them. Just call the 26 counties as they currently stand “traditional counties” and call any new entities “municipal authorities”. You could give them traditional/regional names i.e. corral together parts of Counties Limerick, Tipperary and Clare and call it the Shannon Municipal Authority.

    2. Anomanomanom

      You lost me at bit where your opinion about dublin was projected as “most irish people”. Dublin is the capital for all of ireland. Your rant is simply that a rant.

      1. Anomanomanom

        By the way, I went back and read all of that. Your rant in the first part, I still say its rant, was bit over the top but I have to say well done. The rest if that post makes perfect sense. Elected mayor if Dublin, you’d get my vote with plans like that.

    3. De Kloot

      Ahem. Dublin is and always will be the only hope the poxbottle that is rural Ireland has going for it. When the farm and the subsidy went to the eldest brudder and the priesthood and the Garda absorbed the other two, it was Britain, America, Australia or Dublin. And as we learned from the Ballroom of Romance, god help yeh if you were a woman.

      Dublin today is an idea. A bit like America. That it will take all and any. And it doesn’t care where you’re from. But unlike America, you can drive home to your mammy in a couple of hours. All roads – all the good roads – lead to Dublin. And out again.

      Be thankful for it. I am.

      1. Joe835

        I don’t disagree! But in the national conscience, certainly outside of Dublin, it’s not seen as everyone’s capital city – it’s seen as “them jackeens burr’aud in Dublin with the besht of everything”.

        1. Anomanomanom

          Its 50/50 I think. Iv three friends from outside Dublin, their from Mayo, Limerick and louth. And all three love Dublin and will never move back “home”. Iv never understood this mind set in Ireland of the Dubs and then everyone else being boggers. Ireland is to small for that mentality. Let’s be honest Dublin is just the place for jobs, its a shit hole compared to other parts of ireland. But those other parts are only ok for short space of time before you have literally nothing to do.

        2. De Kloot

          The majority of those ‘Jackeens’ – to coin a local phase for local people – are blow-ins…. from the ‘counthry’ like. Making their lives and livelihood… or their parents or their parent’s parents before them…. It’s the way it’s always been. For all its ails and issues and decay and development, and regardless of how palatable people beyond the pale find it, Dublin is the nexus for this island – financially, culturally, academically and so on. It is also it’s nadir for filth, squalor, corruption and desperation. It’s the nature of large cities and certainly a city that has such an imbalance of our nations’s population. Of course these positives and negatives exist elsewhere in Ireland.

          The bottom line is Dublin will welcome anyone and it’s a shame more people don’t take pride in the place.

          1. Joxer

            it’s a shame more people don’t take pride in the place.

            agreed 100%. dont know why the majority of Dubliners (either natural born or recent arrivals) dont see the city for the wonderful, blousy, all embracing aul wan that she is. i have lived in other cities and places yet i always felt out of place until i came back here.

        3. hansel

          Yeah it’s all them people what lives outside Dublin’s fault obviously. Them culchie sleeveens dat take all our moneys!

          Look, this goes two ways. Dublin’s providing way more than it should be, in terms of jobs, tax, you name it, basically keeping vast swathes of the country afloat.

          But every state-funded study over the last 50 years points to this being unsustainable in the long run: the sustainable models all propose either one or two other metropolitan urban areas in the republic. So having ONLY Dublin interlinked with good road/rail/light rail/air/sea infrastructure, in short, was never seen as a good idea.

          When you realise that a Cork/Limerick interurban area have around €44bn economy, 0.75million people, (Dublin region is around €80bn, 1.75million people) you start asking questions like “is it really just Dublin V rural” and “should there maybe be road/rail/light rail infrastructure there too”.

          By focusing on solely Dublin V rest, you’re equally guilty of propagating the “our capital/their capital” culture.

          The other urban areas need to be invested in, in order to realise their full potential and alleviate the pressure on Dublin. And that doesn’t mean Gort, Tuam and New Ross (jesus wept).

          1. Anomanomanom

            The problem is Ireland as a country is crap at any big infrastructure project. We are small enough to easily connect most of the country by rail or road. Australia, Canada and USA have roads you can literally drive in from one side of the country to the other and our small country has crap roads and out dated rail.

          2. Cian

            Anomanomanom , you *can* actually drive from one side of this county to the other. The M6/M4 is motorway from Galway to Dublin.

          3. Joe835

            Anomanomanom, I think we had the right idea just before the crash when it came to infrastructure. We were finally doing the big picture stuff that drives an economy and one positive legacy of the last boom is a reasonable motorway network between main population centres and the capital.

            Of course it’d be great to have better links between the other cities and an integrated, functional public transport system but c’est la vie.

    4. Clampers Outside!

      Great post…
      Couldn’t agree more on the local councils bit, and the following bit about border counties and what is sometimes called “the commuter belt”.

      I think rather than focus on a ‘Dublin Mayor’ it should be called something else to cover the governing of an area, that goes beyond simple borders on maps. Dublin itself is tiny.

      1. ahjayzis

        Greater Dublin Mayor?

        The newly created Greater Manchester Mayor will be over far larger an area than just Manchester city.

    5. louisefronde

      Ireland is not unique in having counties. To my knowledge, England has, so does Wales, Scotland and plenty of other countries too. County boundaries in Ireland have shifted over time, Dublin included, so the notion that they are written in stone is just that, a notion. But, certain Irish people have been conditioned into thinking these artificial boundaries are somewhat sacred.

      France used to have counties, and provinces until they were abolished and ultimately replaced with departments. That’s not to say that regional identity no longer exists in France, it certainly does.

      By the way find me a country where people from the provinces don’t have a hang up about the capital city, and I’ll gladly eat my hat. You only have to look to your nearest neighbour which is testament to that fact. In France, Paris is often the whipping boy, for provincial discontent.

      I think part of the problem, is that post-independence Ireland has been following a tired narrative that would be more at home in the 1870’s than today. Part of that can be attributed to ‘political stasis’, peripheral thinking and a very poor education system which makes no adequate provision for civic and political education in a meaningful way. Consequently there is a noted absence of ‘sophistication of thought’ when it comes to political governance in your country, and what I have read from the comments so far are the usual shibboleth and tired mantras of people who don’t think for themselves. Let’s call it what it is..customary laziness or peasant fatalism which still effects a sizeable portion of the population, the inability or wantonness to improve your country or the desire to do so.

      While that last comment might ‘infuriate’ some, who like to stand on their dignity. Perhaps, rather than getting all patriotic in the chauvinistic sense, perhaps they should become more patriotic in a progressive and forward thinking manner.

      Either way, ‘disliking authority’ and absolving yourself from responsibility for governance (because others are ‘incompetent, corrupt or self-serving’) is not an intelligent or civilised way to develop your country.

      Perhaps, those who misgovern your country can rely on that same ‘fatalism, laziness and absence of civic patriotism’ to maintain their power of over you. So I go back to that final question, what are you going to do about it?

      Doing nothing, is not good enough. It’s pointless!

  11. Cian

    Why do you have directly elected mayors elsewhere? What is the benefit?

    We elect the councillors, and they select the mayor (this is the same as our central government – we vote TDs and they select the Taoiseach). Is there any advantage to having a direct elect?

    1. Joe835

      It brings focus. Right now, you have part-time councillors with very little power and therefore very little incentive or ability to make any changes. Say for example they wanted to bring in a flat city fare for all buses in the region to encourage public transport use; the councillors right now could, if they were bothered, pass a motion calling on the minister to give consideration blah blah blah. The minister, who has responsibility for all of Ireland’s transport, should be giving focus to such an issue but is currently occupied taking selfies on the 44 bus.

      A Dublin mayor with control over transport policy could decide “right, we’re bringing in a flat city fare for all buses in the region because along with everything else, I also control Dublin Bus and can impose taxes on lots of activities in the city as I see fit”. They could impose a tax on city centre parking fees to raise the money to subsidise Dublin Bus for any loss incurred and therefore encourage public transport use whilst at the same time discouraging city car use by making it more expensive to park in town.

      That’s just one example of how a mayor could shake things up – what’s more, there’s an incentive to do so because if they don’t make a positive difference to the city, they could be turfed out at the next election. It would be quite a revolution for Irish democracy – voting for someone with executive, real-world and extensive power they’re encouraged to wield for the public good.

      1. Anomanomanom

        So what happens if people stop parking in the city. Therefore no subsides for dublin bus so a monstrous lose of money. Giving one person that power will not work. Why not have the mayor and a one single council.

        1. Joe835

          You’ve just demonstrated why we need a mayor; we need someone with the power to try these things rather than have people sit on their hands, worried about the danger of an initiative not working.

          Incidentally, a small rise in car parking charges wouldn’t stop people parking in the city – but it would cause some to reconsider driving in on a regular basis, exactly the type of people you’d want to encourage onto buses, which would then be cheaper.

          1. louisefronde

            DCC depends on rates from commercial property to pay its bills. If you make it more difficult for people to drive into town and park (affordably) you are in fact squeezing the life out of retail and the very businesses which fund the city.

        2. ahjayzis

          You have a less congested city and everyone using the bus to get in there…?

          You’ve just described the policy succeeding, not failing.

          “Giving one person that power will not work”

          You better tell every single other european capital and major city – be sure to document your evidence.

  12. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

    This is a true story…

    A long time ago Dublin got a new Lord Mayor who’s most radical move during his tenancy was to move into the Mansion House on Dawson Street. (There’s a joke in there but I won’t make it.)
    He had a party to celebrate, and his niece fancied me so I got invited. I have NEVER felt so uncomfortable in my life as I did that night.

    Long story short, I found a phone and invited me mates, then took charge of the door, allowing people in and stuff. Free drink and stuff. Nobody cared. Too busy licking up to notice.
    Me mates…-Nobody turned up.

    I don’t remember the rest.

    My point is, Lord Mayors only matter if you have one, but you’re most likely better off without one.

    1. Pawel

      “Me mates…-Nobody turned up. ”

      Awe. The party hotline people don’t make personal appearances as far I know of.
      You try the Samaritans next time maybe? Wa ha ha ha

  13. Owen

    Great Questions!! This is exactly what we need!! Another level of elected figure heads along the chain of power to further dilute our top heavy political system, and slow even further any level of legislative progression.

  14. Mourinho

    I’m going to do absolutely nothing about it.

    That is, until someone convinces me of the benefit of having one.

    1. ahjayzis

      Dublin, the engine of our country and the only real source of any wealth is run by mucksavages in Leinster House more concerned with how much Dublin money they can extract for bypasses that lead nowhere and train lines with no passengers.

      No one speaks for Dublin, it’s not an entity, it’s run on the same governance structure as Leitrim. The transport is sh1t, there is no night transport, the bin services are sh1t, it’s congested as fvck, planning’s a mess, licensing laws are antiquated, the nighttime economy is ignored and demonised, it’s underpoliced and filthy. It might help if we had a man or woman in charge of it who could actually be held accountable, instead of various city and county managers who are not *coughjohntierneycough*

      1. Mourinho

        You haven’t convinced me that electing yet another politician can sort these issues.

        You think Mayor Bertie could sort this?
        That is who is quite likely to be elected.

        1. ahjayzis

          If he didn’t he could be sacked. DIrect accountability, no evasion behind things like “Well he’s a crook but the party’s good” or “the party’s rubbish but he fixed the road” – actually responsible for the things he actually does and doesn’t do.

          1. ReproBertie

            “actually responsible for the things he actually does and doesn’t do.”

            So actually benefitting from “he fixed the road”?

          2. ahjayzis

            So actually fixing the road.

            TD’s don’t actually run, fix, maintain or in any way control the road infrastructure – they just take credit when the council fills a pothole.

  15. ahjayzis

    Because someone thought it would be a good idea to give the councillors in the four Dublin LA’s a veto. And so Dublin doesn’t have a Mayor because Fingal County Council are a$$holes.

  16. Daisy Chainsaw

    Because Mayors in Ireland are ceremonial jobs for attending launches, local events, judging Patrick’s Day parades etc. Directly electing mayors just adds another layer of expensive bureaucracy when they won’t be given the power to do anything. We’re too small a country to indulge that kind of thing.

    1. ahjayzis

      Lord Mayors are ceremonial, like the Lord Mayor of London.

      Mayors are governors, like the Mayor of London. They can push through things like night time transport services and fare freezes – things city managers have no incentive to do because why would they give a fupp what the plebs think of them?

  17. 15p

    all our politicians are uncaring, selfish, self-serving, corrupt and over-paid. if we decided we could do with a mayor, one of these politicians would ensure an ex-party member or someone would get the job, and they’d abuse that position too. so whereas it might work well in other countries, in ireland (4th most corrupt country in the world) a mayor it would just be another burden on the taxpayer with no reward.

    1. ahjayzis

      We’re actually one of the least corrupt countries by most measures, Transparency International, the OECD, etc.

  18. Turgenev

    At the moment, Dublin City Council (properly Dublin Corporation but they suddenly took a notion and a vagary and changed it out of the blue a few years ago for no obvious reason) is stymied because all the parties have a kind of knife-in-your-enemy’s-back circle jerk going on.
    For instance, they recently debated the sensible idea of allowing cyclists to cycle contraflow down one-way streets, which would have brought most cyclists off the main streets and been safer for everyone. The council was hung on the vote with equal numbers for and against; the current mayor, Criona Ní Dálaigh, used her casting vote against it.
    There is, by the way, an overall plan by Transport for Ireland for the Greater Dublin Region, which stretches out to nearby towns. But the excellent ideas of the TFI’s highly qualified engineers have to be dragged through the syrup of council meetings which very often cause them to come to nothing.

  19. some young queen

    as anyone who has been to paris in the last 15 years will tell you we need to ape any aspect of that poohole like we need a hole in the head

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