Butler is all about balance

Fine Gael DEM hopeful councillor Daniel Butler. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

FORMER Limerick Mayor and Fine Gael hopeful to take back the chain on June 7, Cllr Daniel Butler believes he is the right person for the job as he is the only candidate running to have held the lofty office up to now. He thinks getting the role right is all about finding a balance.

When the Limerick Post met up with the City West representative in his mother’s family homestead of Glin, he was in full on election mode with all the confidence and swagger of a pontificating pugilist. Before I could get near him to land a sucker punch though, he hit me with a question of his own from left-field.

“The first directly-elected mayor will have to hit the ground running. They will only have three years to make a success of the role, and if they can make a success of it, then they can go back and say, ‘look, this is working, now give us more power’,” he starts.

“We have to prove ourselves. That’s why I kind of feel like I’m in a good position, I have the relationship with the staff, I have the relationship with the councillors, I understand the system. I have a relationship with the national government. I really feel like I can go in there, hit the ground running, and really make the most of this opportunity.

“Whereas for others, who have never worked in local government, they’ve never been involved in local democracy. I’d ask the question, if they were so vested in Limerick and local democracy, why did they never want to be a councillor?”

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Alan Jacques talking to Cllr Daniel Butler on the campaign trail in Glin. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

It’s clear Cllr Butler, who served as mayor from 2021/2022, is coming out swinging. He says that, if elected, he will prioritise Limerick and believes now is the time to show them up in Dublin who we are here in the Treaty City.

‘We’ve become a slave to a Dublin-centric kind of view’

Daniel tells me that he has always sought to make a positive, practical impact in peoples’ lives. That, he says, is his motivation in life. That desire to make positive change is why he entered local politics.

“Local government’s primary responsibility is to make life better. That’s what it should be boiled down to in one line. That’s what it is.

“Okay, you can split that into different areas — environment, recreation, sports spaces –  but it’s about making people’s lives better. I think in some ways we become a slave to policies. We’ve become a slave to a Dublin-centric kind of view of how we should live our life here,” he says.

Cllr Butler believes that “we’ve become a slave to Dublin-based agencies that dictate to us”.

“And I think what the mayor can do is change that because the executive, as much as they work hard for the people of Limerick, also have to play the game with national government. I think the mayor, who has been given a democratic mandate, can stand up to that because you don’t have to have that level of account to Dublin that civil servants do.”

Looking around his mother’s homeplace, he says: “We’re here in Glin this morning, and if you’re from this area and you want to live here where you were born and bred, you can’t do that. Because Dublin has said ‘we can’t have one-off housing’. And at the same time they won’t give us investment in infrastructure to grow our towns. So it’s that kind of Dublin-centric policy that has been damaging us. Limerick is complex because you have a vast county and up in the corner you have a city. So this is a huge opportunity.”

Alan Jacques talking to Cllr Daniel Butler on the campaign trail in Glin. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

‘I get stuck in traffic, drop the kids off at school, all that kind of stuff’

A devoted father-of-two, Daniel wants to build a better and bigger Limerick for his children. He strongly believes that local progressive politics can make practical improvements for people’s lives and he wants to continue that as mayor.

Painting a picture of a man about town and in the know, he tells me: “I’m still a young man. I’m 45. I have a young family and I have a mortgage. I get up in the morning and I go to my work in the HSE. I get stuck in traffic, drop the kids off at school, all that kind of stuff. And this was probably the reason I decided I should go for it. Because there’s nobody really representing our voice.”

“The mayor will get access to the cabinet up to four times a year. That’s a big one, we can fight for our slice of the cake. That’s what it’s about. Obviously there’s a €40million budget which will be beneficial. But I think it’s the bigger stuff, getting that bigger investment in terms of infrastructure, that’s going to be the thing, being able to speak that political language and being able to negotiate with politicians, we have to develop those relationships.

“I’ve heard a narrative that the mayor shouldn’t be a political job. This is a political role. You’re in a chamber with 40 councillors in a political arena. We’re going to deal with senior ministers. So, yes, you are a politician, and this is definitely a role where you need to know politics.”

Cllr Daniel Butler on the campaign trail in Glin. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

‘People before policy’

The people of Limerick, Cllr Butler believes, need a leader who not only understands their needs, but acts with conviction and unity. His record, he maintains, speaks for itself and he considers himself a unifier and dedicated public servant.

“We’re always looking to grow, improve. We’re never perfect. That’s the same with our society or community within Limerick. I think it’s important to note that in the 10 years that I’ve been involved with council, if you compare it to where we were 10 years ago, we are unrecognisable.

“It’s more sustained now. But now how can we sustain that? I think it’s about balance. Anybody that contributes to the economy and works hard and gives a lot should be getting something back. So affordable housing is an important thing for me. Because, first of all, it’s a home and then, economically, unless we have homes here, people aren’t going to come and invest here because they know they won’t be able to have houses. That’s why I’m kind of in talking a lot about ‘people before policy’. I think we’ve been bombarded with strategies, policies, concepts, and launches.”

As mayor, Cllr Butler says, he would work hard and fight for everyone in the city and the county – rural and urban, and everyone in between – “a Limerick mayor for all”.

“There is no place like Limerick. I have the energy, the experience, and the enthusiasm for this job and I think I’m the right person at the right time.”