“ONE voice, one vision, one Limerick” was the jazzy chorus repeated throughout the inaugural meeting of the newly merged local authority, but not everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet.
According to Conn Murray, who is no longer City nor County Manager but CEO, the merger represents “an historic change in the rich and varied heritage of the local government system in Limerick”.
“We move forward together as one Council, aware of the challenges, but facing the future with the optimism and confidence that all new beginnings bring,” Murray enthused.
He vowed that Limerick City and County Council, at both elected and official level, will continue to preserve in the months and years ahead to deliver the type of quality public services that the people of Limerick “so richly deserve”.
“Part of the process of beginning anew, or changing directions, is to know where you want to go. I know this sounds simplistic and easy but it is the most difficult of choices to make with clarity. I believe after many years of debate local government has a clear purpose and a definitive direction,” he commented.
According to Mr Murray, local government has now been empowered to lead economic, social and community development locally. The Council’s chief executive maintains the new Council will be closer and more responsive to the day to day needs of citizens and more representative of their priorities in setting policies and making decisions.
At the beginning of his new term in office, Murray said he would use a simple three step strategy to include empowering the citizen to participate in the development of their community both rural and urban; an environment for real economic development and job creation, and a new model of Local Governance and service delivery.
However, not everyone was convinced that this new path was necessarily the best one to travel.
Leader of the council’s Sinn Fein group, Cllr Maurice Quinlivan described the merger as a “further hollowing out of local democracy in this state” while independent councillor John Gilligan said he would have preferred a boundary extension to “save my city”.
Cllr Gilligan described Minister Phil Hogan as “get rich merchant” who set out to “downgrade” Limerick City. The City North councillor said that for some the merger was like a wedding, but for others, a wake.
“Oliver Cromwell tried to destroy our city and he failed. Minister Hogan will fail too,” he predicted.