AS PROTESTS continued in Limerick city against the installation of water meters, the new mayor Michael Sheahan says he cannot see any alternative to the tax.
And with members of the new merged authority due to vote on a motion to slash the property tax by 15%, the Fine Gael councillor added that he cannot see how council finances could support this move, unless a “generous benefactor” took over Limerick to turn it into the “Las Vegas of Ireland”.
The Monaleen councillor made history this week when he was elected the 818th mayor of Limerick - and the first leader of the newly created Metropolitan city district.
He beat Cllr Maurice Quinlivan of Sinn Fein and Cllr Cian Prendiville of the Anti-Austerity Alliance to the chains, as a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail pact held.
His election comes against the backdrop of continued protests over water meter installations, with Irish Water engineers forced to pack up and leave Caherdavin as blockades were set up last week.
“I do not think there is an alternative to water metering at the moment. I don’t think we can get away with it,” he said.
The mayor also indicated he would not be supportive of a Sinn Fein motion to cut the property tax by 15% - the maximum reduction a local authority can impose.
“If, in the morning, we had a very generous benefactor who is going to take over our city and suddenly we can become a Las Vegas of Ireland, then we could look at it. But in the present financial situation, I do not see that happening,” Mayor Sheahan told the Limerick Leader.
The former Monaleen National School deputy principal - a former county councillor - said his elevation to mayor was “massively historic” and “historically new”.
“I am from the old Castleconnell electoral area which up to now looked in on the city,” he said. “The city has moved out. We need to redress the balance that has been in the city where we had a situation where the majority of the city was social housing, and maybe a bit of a drain on development.
“Now, with the combined strength of the environs, we will all put our shoulder to the wheel to make our city and its centre a better place to live in,” he added.
First elected in 2009 to the former Castleconnell electoral area on Limerick County Council, Mayor Sheahan is married to Trish.
A former chairman of Monaleen GAA, Cllr Sheahan is president of Community Games, a body for whom he coaches rounders for.
O’Connell Avenue businesswoman Maria Byrne was also elected as deputy mayor at the inaugural meeting of the Metropolitan district.