A lot can happen in a 1000 days, you can travel the world, you can learn italian or you can be halfway through a new chapter in your life. But something that seemingly can’t be done in a 1000 days, is implement a policy in Dublin, a policy voted on by people of Limerick, for the people of Limerick. Because in 1000 days, the stalling of the implementation of the Directly Elected Mayor in Limerick, shows how little you can do in 1000 days.
In a attempt to spur this horse from its this glacial pace down the M7 to Limerick City, members of the city, from Business owners, to community leaders, academics, joined at the launch of a movement and accompanying petition to demand the promised legislation be voted on and brought in to take the first step forward in self-governance, not only in Limerick but for the rest of the country in over two generations.
The movement titled “We Want Our Vote” brought together a wide range of people to the launch in Arthurs Quay Park in the middle of Limerick City, to formulate their reasoning and importance for the position of a directly elected mayor. From its benefits to the people, the city, the businesses within the city but also the knock-on effect this change would have in every other city in Ireland.
In highlighting the importance for businesses, Mary Fitzgerald, from Woodlands House Hotel in Adare, spoke the importance of realising Limerick’s potential saying: “Limerick has so much to offer. It’s such a vibrant place but has not reached its potential at all. It is just driven on. And I think the directly elected mayor with the right powers, and the right and the right opportunities and the right budget could make Limerick an amazing place and will make it an amazing place, if we get the chance to do it” As it would in her words ” it open [Limerick] up to a completely new audience, which we desperately need to drive on our tourism, especially with what’s after happening in the last couple of years.
On the reaction of this vote not being brought through already, Linda Ledger, from St Munchins Community Center in Moyross spoke of how:” It is a very hard pill to swallow. And so many people came out in Limerick and voted for it. Limerick want a mayor and for us to have a voice at the the table in Dublin, because we’re lost. There should be a bottom-up approach that would bring more money down to the group, not just for community centers but for the whole of limerick
The chairperson of Liveable Limerick, John Moran, spoke further on the disconnect from Dublin and Limerick, saying: “It’s really important time for Limerick to speak up. And let Dublin know that we’re tired of waiting. It’s over two years since we voted to have a directly elected mayor. At the time Limerick wants change, they want better government locally, they want more democratic accountability. And having said they want that it just is beyond us why we’re still waiting. People in Dublin are saying that they’re doing this as quickly as they can. But we know you can put more resources you can get this done more quickly
Moran continued, on the smoke and mirrors to delay this vote: “if you don’t want something happening, you make it sound complicated and eventually people get tired. And that’s what today is about is saying we’re not getting tired down here. And then we’re not giving up. We want this. And we’re going to sign up to our petition to actually show just how many people care. The scale of development that’s happening in other cities, even in Ireland is now moving much faster than Limerick. And part of the reason is that because we know we’re having a directly elected mayor, our own councillors, our own local government are in limbo. They’re a caretaker government so they can’t make big decisions and limerick needs some big decisions to be made in the next couple of years for us to reach our potential.
Everyone at this launch expressed the desire and importance of this vote, but why? What difference does it make and what would actually change, and even if it did, how much capital would Limerick be afforded to run it’s own local matters.
To answer these, academic, broadcaster and contributor to the Limerick Post, Stephen Kinsella, said at the launch (with the Limerick City and County council hanging in the background behind him), that:” This is the first major change in a century. Like when you think about it, and put it in scale. It’s a century, since any kind of local government reform that’s taken place. It’s happening first here in Limerick, and we should be proud of that. We should also be aware that we have a responsibility not just to Limerick, Waterford, cork, all the other cities of the country that are coming behind us to make sure that the power of this mayor is sufficient to deliver on them any money that’s given by people.” That currently the mayor is: “essentially, a highly paid lobbyists with a couple of highly paid advisers. All they can do is get the bus up to Dublin from Limerick and plead with the people in Dublin to give them a few scraps. That’s not what we voted for. We voted for a mayor, the same way they get a mayor in London, or other directly elected mayors around the world who have the power to make change for the people, in Limerick and that’s what we want, isn’t it!”
And lastly on the economic effects of a democratically elected mayor, Kinsella outlined how “the elected mayor would be able to channel hundreds of millions of euros of resources into the city and into the county which is an important point to make. You know, it’s not just the city, it’s also for the county, the mayor of Limerick, he or she or they, whoever they are, will actually be able to make a change for over a couple 100,000 people. And the benefits thing enormous, but they’re only going to be enormous if the shape of the office is correct. If the powers that exist, attract the kind of person who’s going to say, yes I’m going to fight for this, with economic benefits that are gonna be off the charts, if we can get our act together. Now.