Ah yes. The famous scene from Carry On Cowboy when gunslinger The Rumpo Kid (Sid James) arrives in town and meets Judge Burke (Kenneth Williams).
“Well, ‘ellooo”, intones the Judge. “I’m the mayor”. “Stay away from my horse” says the Kid. “He hasn’t seen a mare in six months. Whah, hah, hah, hah.” It’s so silly, you just have to laugh.
And you know, in a funny way, our own mayoral caper is a bit of a carry on. I’m not just referring to the previous incumbent, who has been pretty entertaining, but to the whole shenanigans of selecting the Lord Mayor of Dublin.
Because the selection of our first citizen simply couldn’t be less transparent. It’s decided in party political horse-trading, in backrooms, rotated between the parties when they can agree and sometimes finished off with a stab in the back when the vote comes around. “Et tu Brutus?” as they would say in theatre circles
I don’t want to be a spoilsport. It’s mighty crack, it keeps our politicians amused for a while and it has thrown up some worthwhile mayors who went on to do something worthwhile. But is it of any use, is the real question. And could we make better use of it?
The alternative is obvious – an elected mayor with executive power – like in London or New York. We almost got one of those at the last round of local government reforms. The politicians in Leinster House chickened out, it was said, because a Dublin mayor would be so powerful as to rival national politicians.
That might be so but Dublin is paying a big price. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that this city has been deliberately hobbled. We have four local councils running different parts of the city and county. We have numerous agencies and ministries trying to sort out the traffic. And we have effectively no real local democracy.
The recent elections failed to throw up a debate about the future of Dublin. Compare that to the London mayoral election which is held on a citywide basis and where all the debate was about London as a whole.
I know that there are disadvantage, chiefly that candidates are tempted to go for the ‘big idea’. That’s how London ended up with the Congestion Charge.
But, at least, it was a decision and someone who could be held accountable for it. We don’t have that opportunity at all.
We need to change the way that Dublin is run. An elected mayor might be a good start.
The ties that bind
Contrary to all the whinging, I think it’s great to see all the posters up at election time. It’s a vital part of Irish democracy.
Most of the posters are down so there’s no problem. But hang on – why are all those plastic ties left on the lamp posts?
This is a loophole in the law. The political parties can put up these plastic ties and leave then there because they are untraceable. The law should be changed so that all the material, including the plastic ties, must be identifiable.
The council should be allowed to removed unidentified material before the elections.
That would suitable motivate the party machines.