On Monday evening, after he had put on a giant gold chain and hugged his son, the new lord mayor of Dublin, Brendan Carr, set out a few proposals that he wants to push during his coming year in office.
Carr, a Labour councillor, has concrete plans: to promote the living wage, push for a hotel bed tax in the city, and create a register of workplaces that are willing to give ex-offenders job placements.
To do the first, he wants to create a plaque that businesses who pay workers more than €11.50 per hour can display for customers, he told councillors. Kind of like a fair-trade label.
“In case anyone in the government parties might feel that this sounds a bit too much like creeping socialism for their liking, may I allay their fears by pointing out that even the right-wing menace of Europe, Boris Johnson, supported the London Living Wage campaign,” he said.
The second idea, for a hotel bed tax, though, is something that has been lobbed around the council for years, but likely needs legislation from central government to make possible.
Any money raised from the 1 percent levy on each hotel bed in the city, the new mayor said, could be invested in arts and culture.
It was, of course, a foregone conclusion that Labour’s Carr would get most of the votes and become lord mayor.
It had been agreed in advance under a pact between Sinn Fein, Labour, the Green Party, and some independents — the loose coalition ruling the council at the moment.
Carr — a trade union official who was a councillor between 1999 and 2009, before being reelected again in 2014 — got 43 votes. Rival candidates for the position Fianna Fail’s Paul McAuliffe and People Before Profit’s Tina MacVeigh got 8 and 9 votes, respectively.
Some of the evening’s session was given over to disagreements about the nature of the pact, and whether it was the best way to choose a mayor.
Councillor Eilis Ryan of the Workers’ Party said that, when the parties came together to join the pact, “there was an absence of discussion of politics, of principles, of values, of morals”. Plus, there are other ways to choose a mayor, she said — but didn’t expand.
Later, Sinn Fein’s Daithi Doolan said the party had made an effort after the 2014 local elections to include all parties and to base any agreement to work together on politics. Other parties could have joined those discussions but didn’t, he said.
He read out a list of the areas of focus that those involved in the pact had agreed the council would have — but they were vague. Some think there could have been more room for policies.
“In the past we’ve had more policies at the heart of these agreements, I think it was a lot less clear on policy this time around,” said the Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe, on Tuesday.
Like others who spoke on Monday night, though, Cuffe said what he really wants to see is a powerful, directly elected mayor. “I guess what I’d like to see is the system re-imagined to allow for the people to vote directly for a mayor who would be in place,” he said.
Said the outgoing mayor, Sinn Fein’s Críona Ní Dhálaigh, in her final speech on Monday: “Even if I didn’t believe that, I really learned this year and I would ask the minister to really follow through on this as what this city urgently needs is a directly elected mayor with proper devolved powers.”
As Ní Dhálaigh swapped out for Labour’s Carr, many councillors paid tribute to how inclusive and independent she had been — and said that the hoopla that erupted when it turned out that a Sinn Fein mayor would be in place during the 1916 commemorations, hadn’t proven to be warranted.
“I didn’t vote for you last year, and I don’t know whether you can call me Chicken Licken but I can confirm that the sky didn’t fall in,” said Fianna Fail’s McAuliffe.
Labour’s Rebecca Moynihan, who is currently the head of the council’s arts committee, is the new deputy lord mayor.