There probably could not have been a better week for the Government to pass its laws on directly elected mayors. The idea of such a scenario has sent shivers down the spines of politicos for some time, given the fear that these seatsmay end up in the hands of what the royals might call ‘commoners’
Up to now when the talks of such elections were mooted, everyone in the audience thought they might give it a shout. At last the role of the mayor of the city and the honour of opening supermarkets and meeting groups of the marginalised would be open to all. Every half-baked “celebrity” in the town took a look at himself/herself and said “wouldn’t it be great I was was headhunted now for this job.” The last thing the political parties wanted was to lose the Holy Grail of divvying up the mayorship as if it was their property, their honour. We’ve even seen that in Galway with the Hilde-gate crisis, with some party members wishing to punish the outspoken FG councillor by denying her access to the chair in the lifetime of this council.
With a direct open vote and the likelihood of an outsider coming forth and winning the seat, the political parties were faced with losing that golden charm. But then came George.
All parties dream of having a George Lee. A sort of golden candidate with access to the meejia, who can fling a few words together without resorting to Terry Prone-taught evasiveness. Someone who looked half all right, someone who was more Harry Potter than Jackie Healy-Rae. He was like a bidet. They didn’t know what it was, or what to do with it, but having one made them feel posh.
They would have been suspicious of him and weren’t they right. He was from the other side. Now politics is full of ex-media types who haven’t been found out yet, but Mairead McGuinness, Pat Cox, Mary McAleese et al get away with it. But George didn’t.
Now Mr Lee has added a new word to the English language in the same way as the bould Captain Boycott did in my own hometown.
To “do a Georgelee” will mean “to undertake a project and to abandon it before it has even started.”
But back to the mayors.
In the next few days we’ll find out just how much power exactly directly elected mayors would have. It has been suggested that they would have control over housing, water, sewage etc, but it is hard to see council officials letting go of such lucrative portfolios, especially when the best sewage conferences are held in faraway clean communities like Stockholm and Helsinki.
While arrangements for the Dublin mayoral elections are advanced with a date set for June (but which probably will be September ), the logical step is that Cork, Limerick and Galway will be getting their own directly elected mayor. The counties will keep their mayors so his/her influence will continue to be limited to whether it’s HobNobs or Choc Digestives they have at the county council meeting tea break.
And so to the candidates. Will the George Lee experience make outsiders have second thoughts? Will the experience make the public have less confidence in outsider, commoner ,celebrity candidates? Only time will tell.