An Oireachtas committee has recommended that the office of the directly elected Mayor of Limerick, which was carried by a plebiscite in the city and county in 2019, have significantly additional powers than those contained in a proposed bill to bring about the change in local government administration.
In its report published today, the Joint Committee on housing Local Government and Heritage has recommended that the bill be amended to provide additional powers and functions to the directly elected Mayor, including but not limited to transport, planning, health, climate adaptation measures and the oversight of housing and regeneration strategies.
In addition, it recommended that the mayor also be provided with funding and revenue raising measures to cover the costs of these.
It also recommends that the mayor has the power to appoint all staff members of their choosing, and that the office of director general, akin to county manager, can be sanctioned or removed in the event they are underperforming or inhibiting the delivery of the mayor's mandate.
The committee also recommends that the mayor can reassign the responsibilities of the directors of service within the local authority.
The committee believes the current bill would not be suitable for electing a directly elected mayor of Dublin and would require a different model and legislation.
It also says that the Department of Housing and local government carry out a detailed analysis of the 2019 plebiscite to improve public information campaigns.
The publication of the committee's report comes on the back of some criticism that the proposed bill did not go far enough.
John Moran, Chair of Liveable Limerick, who made a submission to the committee, said he believed the proposed legislation would not work
He said that the people of Limerick who had voted for real change and for local power would be betrayed by it, if it was enacted as drafted.
"Will the people of Limerick finally be trusted and given the powers and budget to guide their own destiny or will the dead hand of centralised power in Dublin continue to hold back Limerick and other cities and counties in Ireland by making sure that this reform cannot work to change the comfortable status quo in any meaningful way?" he asked.
Dee Ryan, the chief executive of Limerick Chamber, said they were strongly in favour of meaningful local government reform, which would devolve greater decision making powers on local issues to elected representatives including a directly elected Mayor, and that functions and services provided by Government and other State agencies be assigned directly to the control of Limerick city and county council.
This also needed ring-fenced funding to deliver on commitments in multi-annual budgets leading to a strengthening and enhancing of local democracy.
Minister Peter Burke, who is responsible for the new legislation, outlined that he will now consider how best to incorporate the recommendations of the committee's report into the general scheme and stated that it was his hope that many of the recommendations will be reflected in the Bill before publication.
"Drafting of the legislation continues to progress, and it is my hope that it can be published and passed through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible," he said. "The date for an election will be set by Government."