Thursday, 3 November 2016
Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2016: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the election of a Mayor for the Local Government areas of Dublin City and the counties of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin; to provide for the establishment of a body to be known as the Regional Authority of Dublin, or in the Irish language, Údarás Réigiúnach Bhaile Átha Cliath; to confer certain functions on the said Mayor and on the said Authority including functions under the Waste Management Act 1996, the Planning and Development Act 2000, the Local Government Act 2001 and certain other enactments; for that purpose and other purposes to amend those enactments; and to provide for matters connected therewith.
I am very proud to introduce this Bill and I look forward to working with other parties in the Dáil and the Seanad to, I hope, make it a reality. We very much support the approach introduced by Fianna Fáil that we should consider a plebiscite to get public support for such an initiative. This Bill complements, follows on from and fits in very well with such an approach because it provides the detail and the structures within which the public would look to introduce such a system. A number of other parties here over the years have been involved, engaged and recently interested again in the provision of a directly elected mayor for this city, so I hope we can get consensus across this House to turn it into a reality.
It is very much a Dublin mayoral Bill but it has implications for other regions because if it is successful or if other parties so wish, we should look to replicate the broad approach in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and other cities as they all face the same issue we face in Dublin, namely, how to manage and plan for the future in a way that really works. Many people believe we must think about planning for an island of 10 million people. Within that, we must start thinking about a Dublin of 2 million people rather than 1 million. To get that right, we believe we need strong political leadership that can plan for the development of this city. It is for the latter that this mayoral Bill would provide. It would allow a directly elected mayor to set the regional strategy on key issues of housing, transport and the management of infrastructural services that are vital for a city to work. Having worked in this area for many years, particularly in transport and the connection between transport and housing, I would be interested to know whether anyone believes the current arrangements are working or whether they provide for strategic planning and management of the city. We face traffic gridlock in this city because we have not planned our transport system effectively. We are in the middle of the worst housing crisis the city has seen because we also failed to plan for housing needs. With a directly elected mayor, the buck would stop at someone's desk. He or she would have real responsibility to ensure that we do not continue to follow the current pattern.
The Bill we present is very similar to that brought forward in 2010, a time when we were in government and worked with other parties on the broad outline of that legislation. It had pretty much made its way through all Stages in this House and was almost on Fifth Stage in the Seanad before, with the change of Government, the it fell. We know what has happened in the interim and we do not need to go over the history of the matter. However, there should be an appetite in this House to introduce another Bill in order to bring the concept back to the fore, particularly as we see more than ever that the success of the city depends on strong and good political leadership.
The legislation has been amended. We have changed it to reflect the controversies surrounding issues such as water, in respect of which we were seeking to give the mayor a particular role. We have put that to one side until we work out our broad approach. Times have changed since 2010 in that regard. However, the Bill is broadly very similar to that which preceded it in that it does not impose a major cost obligation on the Exchequer. It seeks to use the existing local government systems by and large but creates a political level above them, a regional political approach, which works with the four Dublin authorities and the Government. This would not supplant Government. It would still be subject to oversight from this House but it would provide for the co-ordination, planning, strategic thinking and future thinking that is missing from our public system. A system whereby a different mayor is elected every year does not offer political authority. This Bill would provide that.
We look forward to proceeding to Second Stage in our own Private Members' time two weeks from now. We look forward to any amendments or suggestions any other parties may have. The Bill is fully capable of being amended. However, it is a serious item of legislation which was tested in the Department prior to being drafted originally, which we have amended and updated and which we believe is fit for today.
We look forward to the debate in this House and, hopefully, the Bill's eventual enactment.