The people of Cork city, Limerick, Waterford and Galway are to be asked if they want a directly elected mayor in a special plebiscite to be held next May.

In Dublin, the issue is to be referred to a Dublin Citizens Assembly which will be convened early next year.

Minister for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan revealed details of the plebiscites on RTÉ's This Week.

The plebiscites will take place in Cork city, Limerick city and county, Galway city and county, and Waterford city and county at the end of May 2019, on the same day as the Local and European Elections.

Voters registered in those specific areas will be asked if they would like a directly elected mayor.

The Government is not bound by the results of the plebiscite, but is expected to adhere to the wishes of the people.

If the results of the various plebiscites show a public preference for directly elected executive mayors, appropriate legislation could then be enacted.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

The Government anticipates that the first mayoral elections could be held in 2021.

In Galway, voters will be informed that there will not be a directly elected mayor until after the city and county councils are merged, which is also expected to happen in 2021.

In Dublin, it is proposed that the issue of a directly elected mayor will be considered by a special Dublin Citizens Assembly to be convened early next year.

Depending on the recommendations of the assembly, a plebiscite could take place in Dublin in two years time.

Dublin currently has four separate mayors, each being honorary positions in the four local authorities.

In the past, proposals for a "super mayor" with executive powers have been put forward, but have never progressed.

The exact powers to be held by executive mayors would have to be determined by legislation, but Government sources claim these powers would be "on a par with the Chief Executives of Local Authorities".

Local Authority Chief Executives have the power to supervise, coordinate and manage officers of the council, and to make contracts on behalf of the council. Executive functions also include the granting and refusal of planning permissions, the allocation of local authority houses.

It is not expected that directly elected executive mayors will be given planning powers.