Council Affairs: Posters and promises at the ready

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

AND they are off! The posters are up, promises that can never be kept are being made, and sweaty-palmed politicians with skittish grins are finally out of hiding and coming to a front door near you.

Local Election 2024, as well as Limerick’s first ever ballot for a directly-elected mayor (DEM) is now only weeks away. The current council term is nearing its end and many of the old guard have decided to bow out gracefully with it.

There will be surprises, there will be new faces, there will be old tricks, and there will be change aplenty when the newly-elected members of Limerick City and County Council take their seats in the Dooradoyle chamber later this summer.

The inaugural DEM vote brings a whole new dimension to the local elections. As the first city in Ireland to vote for one, all eyes will be on Limerick.

Those on the DEM trail are claiming a key doorstep issue is in the lack of understanding around the new mayor’s role in local government going forward (more information on which can be found on In fairness, people are leading busy lives and probably feeling a bit bamboozled by the whole thing – not least by candidates making promises that they can’t keep.

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It is well and good making undertakings to open a new A&E here and speed up a surgical hub there, but the DEM will have no skin in the game when it comes to hospital services. Sure, the mayor can advocate for this, and advocate hard, but other than that, it is nothing more than headline grabbing chicanery.

And of course let’s not forget the fact that the plebiscite for DEM only passed by the skin of its teeth, so not everyone is convinced this role is needed, much less than being tuned into what up to recently enough has been a real damp squib of a contest.

Only now, with DEM candidates out on the roads with their bulbous mugs and big crocodile smiles painted onto the sides of new shiny motorcars has it started to feel like the circus has come to town.

Like yummy mummies organising a school bake sale, this cavalcade of flashy SUVs and bicycles ruefully towing billboards behind them — if you happen to spot a Green candidate — has all the spills and thrills of a parish jumble sale.

Around these parts, we had been expecting the greatest show on earth with perhaps John Moran and Helen O’Donnell displaying their aerial flexibility, balance, and grace on the trapeze. I had visions of Brian Leddin and Elisa O’Donovan throwing knives and juggling fire sticks, Daniel Butler and Dee Ryan being shot across the circus ring from a canon.

Sadly, we’ve had none of that just yet, but then again, this is a serious job, and clowning around is the last thing we want from any of our mayoral hopefuls.

In fairness to them, they have gone about their campaigns with dignity and decorum, putting their best feet forward and giving the mayoral office the respect it deserves. For the most part.

However, many of those I have spoken to in recent weeks still have the same concerns as I do about the new mayoral job. I fear that if the wrong person is elected, local government will grind to an absolute halt and Limerick will once again be put under the microscope for all the wrong reasons.

We have a really big opportunity in front of us here, but get it wrong and Limerick will forever be the city of broken dreams. This can’t be a popularity contest. It can’t be about party politics. What we need is the best person for the job.

Limerick’s first DEM needs to have certain qualities in abundance. There is bound to be teething problems at the beginning. Egos and stilted personalities will try and make it difficult for our new mayor and they will have to be able to deal with all kinds of everything, all creatures great and small, all the way down to so far so good and slightly bonkers.

Our directly-elected mayor will have to be a team player, not some go it alone show-pony. They will have to show Samuel L Jackson levels of negotiating skills. They will have to be able to work with 40 councillors, some difficult, some downright vexing. They will have to be able to compromise, collaborate, and bring people with them.

If we elect someone incapable of this, we are really up Wickham Street with half a cycle lane.