Council Affairs: Contestants are out of the starting blocks for Local Election 2024

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

THE race for seats in the next term of Limerick City and County Council is well underway.

Local Elections 2024 promises to be a ballot like none other. With a palpable anger and frustration in the air over housing, healthcare, high inflation, and energy costs, there would appear to be an appetite for real change on the political landscape.

But this isn’t France, where heads actually roll when citizens have an axe to grind.

Things aren’t as clear cut in this neck of the woods, and, for the most part, our bark is worse than our bite. Our attitude is usually one of, if it’s broke, ‘ah shur, we better get used to it, so’.

Our revolutionary fervour, more often than not, ends up with Limerick people rolling over onto their tummies and waiting for an auld rub from Deputies Collins or O’Donnell before ultimately playing dead.

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Anything for a quiet life, I guess.

But people are p-ssed off. It’s taken them some time – a decade of housing and hospital crises – to get to this point, but, for now, their blood’s up.

Spin it to win it

Of course, with this being election season, promises will be made on all sides, heads will be turned, and, for a short time, there will be the welcoming of funding and developments aplenty. Until next June at least, our woes will be swept away with all kinds of empty words and cold calculated spin.

But I am losing the run of myself. The real blood-letting will come in the next General Election, if the winds of change don’t sway in the meantime. All it will take is one juggernaut of a scandal and all bets will be off. For now, the locals are just a dry run.

The Local Elections could be the precursor for greater change ahead, depending on the outcome. Then again, Ireland, being Ireland, we could see the status quote maintained and business as usual despite all the huffing and puffing from the high stool or at the supermarket checkouts.

Still, Local Elections 2024 is going to be colourful. It is going to get ugly and, for many, the next nine months are going to be squeaky bum time.

I think for most of us, the locals are more about the individuals than the parties. But if people’s backs remain up, that might be about to change.

One thing is for sure, there’s interesting times ahead. And while our hardworking local representatives’ daily toil mostly consists of dealing with planning and housing applications and getting down and dirty on some real life issues, some of them will still be hung out to dry despite this, which is never nice to see.

Blue shirts nail colours to the mast

Councillors work damn hard and do it because they genuinely care about their communities.

Politics is a dirty game though. It is not for the faint-hearted, and, when it gets dirty, you better have wellies.

The brave souls first out of the starting blocks to name their contenders in next year’s Limerick Local Elections were Fine Gael. The blue shirts were away like the clappers two weeks ago to announce candidates for the Metropolitan wards of Limerick City North, City West, and City East before some parties even realised there was an upcoming election.

Fine Gael, while sweating heavily, and probably having sleepless nights with it, are giving the appearance of chomping at the bit. They will certainly go down fighting, and who knows, maybe they know something the rest of us don’t. Time will tell.

It is still too early to call and the fact that we, by nature, are creatures of habit might be telling in itself.

Before the firing squad in Limerick’s Metropolitan Districts, Fine Gael are sticking sitting councillors Daniel Butler, Olivia O’Sullivan, Michael Murphy, Sarah Kiely, and Dan McSweeney. Up against the wall with them are some new faces.

With a total of nine candidates so far contesting the city environs for Fine Gael, the thinking would seem to be that if they throw enough at it, bugger the casualties, a couple of them will surely make it over the line.

Among the first-time hopefuls, driving instructor Richard Delaney and Mark Spain, brother of comedian Karl Spain, will be togging out in City North. In City East, Peter Doyle, managing director of Key Ingredients Limerick in Annacotty Park, will join the fight.

Hoping to save the day in City West, political newcomer Michael McCurtain, Limerick’s answer to Clark Kent, will be working the telephone boxes from Dooradoyle to Patrickswell in the coming months. I heard him on with Joe Nash on Live 95 last week and the Limerick Chamber operative was very impressive. A dark horse indeed.

Learned from their mistakes

After getting it terribly wrong in the last Local and General Election, and the realisation that there was more seats to be had if they ran more candidates, Sinn Féin have learned from their mistakes and upped the ante for the race at hand.

At this early stage, the biggest surprise would be for the Irish Republican party to lose some of that momentum gained going into Local Elections 2024. Sinn Féin last week announced seven candidates to contest next June’s election in the Metropolitan Districts, and I imagine they will be adding to their ticket in the weeks ahead.

The impression seems to be that Sinn Féin are an itch that are now ready for scratching. Tired of the rhetoric, the feeling on the street appears to be that it’s time they had their go.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Sitting councillors Sharon Benson and Tom Collopy will be joined by former City West councillor Malachy McCreesh, alongside a number of first-time candidates.

Taking to the political ring for the upcoming Local Elections is Danielle O’Shea, who keeps affairs at Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan’s office running smoothly. With a strong working knowledge of the issues and how to manoeuvre the bureaucracy in Merchants Quay, Danielle is a real contender in City East. Also contesting the same electoral area for the Shinners are Ursula Gavan, wife of Limerick Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan, and Mike Killeen, a well-known party activist.

Joining McCreesh over in City West is Frances Lonergan, a social care worker and another hardworking Sinn Fein activist.

As I filed this article for print, the masters of the dark arts – Fianna Fáil – were still playing their hand close to their chest. But I have no doubt all will be revealed before long, with many twists and turns along the way.

Watch this space…