One voice and one vision for Limerick

A NEW era in local politics commences on June 1 when Limerick City and County Councils will be merged into one Limerick local authority. The curtains fell on City and County Councils this week and Alan Jacques was there to report on their historic final meetings.


Limerick County Council meet for the last time after 115 years in existence
Limerick County Council meet for the last time after 115 years in existence

EXACTLY 115 years to the day that Limerick County Council was established, it convened for the very last time ahead of the amalgamation of the local authorities next month.

On April 22, 1899, the Council held its inaugural meeting in the Grand Jury Rooms of the County Courthouse in Merchant’s Quay. The meeting was attended by all 33 members, 27 of whom were supporters of Irish Home Rule and six of whom were Unionists.

Set your time machines then for April 22, 2014, and Limerick County Council are still hard at work. Twenty eight councillors in all: 15 of whom are Fine Gael; nine Fianna Fail; two Labour and two independents are meeting for the last time under the current local authority structures.

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In their ‘Dr Strangelove’-esque County Hall bunker, our public representatives, over a century later, are still stomping their feet. They are still getting hot under the collars. Still waffling on about such old chestnuts as potholes, crime and commercial rates.

And, with local elections looming, they are giving it far more theatrics than is required at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon after a long bank holiday weekend. But, with the day that’s in it, we won’t hold that against them!

For one thing, there are photographers present and nothing will get a councillor behaving like a performing seal faster than sticking a camera in their face. They are a shameless bunch, especially when there’s an election weeks away!

All dressed up for the big day, there was an affable mood among the council members and the local authority senior executive. Council elders, Eddie Wade (FF) and Mary Jackman (FG), who are both bowing out of local politics, were in flying form. Posing for photographs, Cllr Wade playfully serenaded Cllr Jackman with a rendition of ‘You Are My Heart’s Delight’.

Politicians from rival parties singing sweet nothings to each other is not something you see at council meetings too often! Cllr Jackman quipped, “we’re eternal enemies, but we’re friends really”.

And while there was no escaping that giddy celebratory sense of history and occasion, it was still very much business as usual at the Council’s Dooradoyle base last Tuesday. With the imminent merger of the Councils on June 1, over a century of local history was brought to a ceremonial close on April 22 last.

That sense of occasion was certainly not lost on Cathaoirleach John Sheahan. The Fine Gael councillor described the County Council as an instrument of local government and local democracy before hailing its final meeting as a “solemn, nostalgic and historic day”.

He said the event gave members and management the opportunity to remember and acknowledge those who have contributed to the development of the County down through the years.

“Today we meet for the final time of Limerick County Council. Take a deep breath, look around and take in the sense of the occasion because today is a very, very historic day”, he said.

City and County Manager, Conn Murray, said that he believes that there is now an onus on all elected members and staff to address the challenges and embrace the opportunities faced by Limerick in the years to come.

“I am confident the new Authority will ensure that Limerick remains a vibrant place to live in, work in and visit and one that continues to prosper in terms of economic development, tourism, community engagement and active citizenship,” Mr Murray concluded.

Limerick City Council held its final meeting after 817 years, ahead of being merged with the County Council
Limerick City Council held its final meeting after 817 years, ahead of being merged with the County Council

WHEN Limerick City Council, formerly Limerick Corporation, was established in 1197, Genghis Khan was busy looting and pillaging far-flung corners of the globe.

King Richard the Lionheart was 40 at the time, and St Francis of Assisi was a spring chicken at just 15.

Closer to home, the Viking stronghold of Limerick was getting accustomed to Norman rule.

The city’s local government was also set up after receiving its Charter of Incorporation from King John I of England and the rest, as they say, is history!

To put it into perspective, when Columbus first landed in America, Limerick City Council was already 300-years-old. It was 600 years-old when the United States of America came into existence and 725 years-old when the modern Irish state achieved independence. That’s a lot of history!

With a lot of water under the bridge (shush, don’t mention JFK), the pomp and ceremony of ancient times was present in all its glory at City Hall this Monday for the closing chapter on 817 years of local government history.

Limerick’s City and County Councils are being merged into one Limerick local authority on June 1 following the local elections.

At the top of its last ever meeting, senior executive member, Pat Dowling, announced, “Ladies and gentlemen please be up standing for the Mayor, manager and members of Limerick City Council.

Dressed in their red ceremonial robes, Limerick’s 817th Mayor, Cllr Kathleen Leddin; City Manager Conn Murray and the 17 elected public representatives entered the council chamber for the final time under the current local government structures.

Mayor Leddin described the event as a “nostalgic and historic day tinged with some sadness”. She also expressed her confidence for the future of the soon to be amalgamated local authority.

“I’m deeply honoured to be able to address you on what is an immensely historic occasion for members and staff of Limerick City Council,” said the Mayor, who will shortly retire from politics.

“Those of us gathered here are immensely proud of what has been achieved by the City Council down through the centuries. This modern thriving city we know today is testament to the vision and work of so many Councillors, Mayors and staff members that have gone before us. The historic amalgamation of Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council presents new opportunities for us all and I am very confident that it will prove to be a catalyst for positive change in this city for many years to come,” she added.

City Manager Conn Murray cited Limerick City Council’s “sheer longevity” as one of its most striking features. With the full merger of the local authorities imminent, he said he was “mindful” of the importance of acknowledging the contribution that Limerick Corporation and later Limerick City Council has made to the City of Limerick.

“It has overseen the economic and social development of Limerick into a vibrant and progressive city which is now established as a proven location for international business. In recent times, it has guided the economic, social and physical renaissance of Limerick city centre through the launch of the Limerick 2030 plan,” Mr Murray declared.

“We will continue to persevere at both elected and official level in the months ahead to deliver the type of quality public services that the citizens of our new Limerick Authority so richly deserve. We will do so with one voice and one vision for Limerick,” he concluded.