The Tánaiste has defended the €130,000 salary proposed for directly elected mayors in Cork, Limerick and Waterford, insisting that’s what’s required to attract the right candidates.
Simon Coveney said the role, if sanctioned by plebiscite in May, will come with substantial executive powers and would, in the case of Cork City, create the most powerful politician outside Cabinet.
“The salary is at that rate because it needs to be. This will be a serious, full-time job that will require a lot of energy, a lot of drive, 14-hour days,” he said.
He was speaking after the Cabinet signed off on a memo from Junior Minister John Paul Phelan on the range of powers proposed for the new offices.
People in Cork, Limerick and Waterford will be asked on May 24 — the same day as the local and European elections — to either back or reject the proposal which will be discussed by citizens assembly in Dublin later.
The government had been criticised recently for the lack of detail on the proposal.
Following yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, details have emerged which show that if the plebiscite passes, the first mayors could be elected in 2022.
The mayors would have powers in housing, planning, roads and the corporate function of the council, and would replace the council chief executive in preparing policy in these areas.
The mayor would also replace the CEO as the person responsible for ensuring all decisions of the elected council are lawful.
The CEO will, however, retain powers to allocate social housing, grant licences or permits, and to deal with enforcement matters such as planning. The relationship between the two will be similar to that between a minister and the secretary general of a government department.
While mayors will be elected for a five-year term and be allowed serve no more than two terms, the initial term will be for two-and-a-half years to allow for transfers of power.
A mayor would have a deputy mayor, nominated by the mayor from the existing council but subject to approval by council vote.
Salaries for the three offices will cost €1m a year.
The council would have oversight of the mayor’s performance and would also have the power, in certain circumstances, to remove the mayor from the role.
Mr Coveney said he plans to campaign for a yes vote to create the office of directly elected mayors.
“The creation of this role, if the people agree, is quite exciting especially in Cork, in the context of the pace of change and growth the expanding city will face in the future,” he said.
“It’s all part of the same objective, to empower Cork for an exciting period of growth.”