Opinion pieces

Letter: Time to Empower Local Government in Dublin

A chara, – Michael McDowell’s column (“City council is a blight on Dublin’s core”, September 27th) expresses his concerns about Dublin City’s appearance while overlooking the evisceration of local government that occurred under his watch.

Empowering local government rather than sidelining it may better address his concerns. Ireland’s councils have only a fraction of the powers of their continental counterparts, and these have been reduced further in recent years.

Proper planning demands the devolution of real and substantial powers to local government, rather than the creation of more quangos that he once railed against during his time in ministerial office.

He refers to Ballymun, but its planning and construction in the 1960s was led by the National Building Agency, not by local government, and its reshaping in the early years of this century was led by another standalone agency.

Ballymun was poorly managed under Dublin Corporation’s watch, but adequate resourcing from government could have turned this around. While the more recent Ballymun regeneration was a significant improvement on the first iteration, your columnist must surely take some responsibility for the failure to complete the masterplan and provide a tramline down the main street. If anything, his article makes the case for a public realm tsar for Dublin: someone who could prepare, and co-ordinate plans along the lines suggested in recent letters on these pages by Anthony Abbot-King, Robin Mandal and others.

Cities that impress are those with strong mayors and empowered local government. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics were a success because of the improvements in that city carried out by its late mayor Pasqual Maragall. Paris has been transformed in recent years by mayor Anne Hidalgo, but perhaps Michael McDowell might disagree with the policies of someone who prioritises green space, pedestrian improvements, and safe cycle lanes.

We all want a better Dublin, so let’s empower Dublin City Council and allow Dubliners to elect their mayor, with powers that the city and its residents deserve. – Yours, etc,


Green MEP for Dublin,


Dublin 7.


September 30, 2023

first published

The Irish Times

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