Back in 1229, the role of Mayor of Dublin was created by Prince Henry III. Then, in 1665, King Charles II upgraded the title to Lord Mayor of Dublin.
Dublin’s first Lord Mayor, Sir Daniel Bellingham, was a goldsmith from England and commanded a company of foot soldiers as part of his position.
Now the 346th Lord Mayor, Críona Ní Dhálaigh – the eighth female and first Sinn Féin Lord Mayor for Dublin – couldn’t be more different.
Her role as first citizen of Dublin is to represent the city locally and internationally, and to preside over Dublin City Council’s monthly meetings.
The foot soldiers are long gone, and there’s not much use for the great mace or the great sword anymore. And the Lord Mayor no longer travels by coach – though the old one’s still there for special occasions like St Patrick’s Day.
However, hints of the English tradition still remain.
The Lord Mayor still resides in the Mansion House on Dawson Street, and the Great Chain of Office was presented by King William III, or William of Orange, to the City of Dublin in 1698.
So is it time to get rid of this English tradition and replace it with something more Irish? Or after hundreds of years, has the role become an Irish tradition?
Is a New Title Needed?
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn has put forward a motion to the council’s protocol committee to decommission the title Lord Mayor and replace it with the more inclusive title of Civic Mayor.
“This would be in keeping with a much more democratic description and title. The days of Lords go back to a time when Ireland was under foreign rule and in many respects it is an alien colonialist term,” the motion states.
This motion will come before all councillors for debate at next month’s full council meeting.
Flynn feels the title Lord Mayor has no place in a republic, and hopes that Dublin City Council might lead the way in getting rid of it. He dislikes the title, as it implies that the Lord Mayor has power over others, he says.
“In the year 2016, the commemorative year, with a chance at change, I think it’s essential that we do this,” he says. “There are people in the city council who I believe suffer from a status anxiety and love all these grandiose titles, chains and medals. They’d be far better off going across the water to where everyone is subject.”
He’d be happy with the titles Mayor, Civic Mayor or Ardmhéara.
It’s noticeable that Ní Dhálaigh avoids using the title Lord Mayor and prefers Ardmhéara. She usually used this title to address her predecessor, Christy Burke, as well.
So will republican Sinn Féin councillors be voting in favour of this new motion? Group leader Séamus McGrattan says the party councillors haven’t discussed the topic yet, but his personal view is that the name should remain.
He admits that his initial instinct was to agree with Flynn. But then, after some thought and some discussion with other people, he realised that the title is well-liked.
As he sees it, it’s been around so long it’s lost its old connotations and become our tradition. He’s never associated the title with English lordships.
“I think, generally, the people of Dublin have an affinity with the Lord Mayor. They like the term and it adds to it a bit as well,” says McGrattan.
Overall though, he’d not too pushed either way.
If he had to pick, maybe he’d change it to Ardmhéara. He likes the way Ní Dhálaigh picked it up this year.
Dermot Lacey, chair of the protocol committee, and Labour group leader, says it would be a pity to lose the tradition after so many years. He sees it as part of Dublin’s cultural heritage.
“It’s a nonsense to think that anyone who holds the title is considered as a Lord in the British tradition,” he says. “And as somebody who once held the post, I didn’t feel like a Lord,” he adds, with a chuckle.
He sees the proposal to change the name as a downgrade, and thinks it would reflect badly on Dublin, if Cork and Belfast had Lord Mayors and Dublin didn’t.
As Lacey sees it, changing the title would have no practical impact, except maybe when the title-holder was travelling abroad.
“People see it as having that sort of higher status,” he says. “Which isn’t unreasonable to have as the capital city of a country.”
He says he’d much rather see motions about practical reforms, like creating a directly elected Lord Mayor.