COUNCIL boss Conn Murray suggested abolishing the office of Cathaoirleach to “protect the dignity” of the mayor’s office.
At this week’s meeting of Limerick City and County Council, it was decided by a majority to give Cathaoirleach Kevin Sheahan the title of Mayor of Limerick City and County.
At the same time, his namesake, Cllr Michael Sheahan will stay as mayor of the metropolitan area.
Addressing councillors, Mr Murray said: “When we introduce people to the mayor, there is a clear understanding of what that is. It is very confusing what the Cathaoirleach is. This is an attempt preserve that which went with the mayor.”
Fine Gael fought hard to stop a decision being made on the matter at Monday’s meeting.
Metropolitan mayor Michael Sheahan made an impassioned plea to shelve the proposal for now.
“It is not the day to jump into action. Today is the day to put the proposal out to a public discussion. We need to show leadership: put it in the public arena first. This is a major decision we are making. I am appealing to you chief executive: treat the two offices with dignity. Do it properly. This has been done in haste, and could cause a lot of regret,” he said, “Withdraw this rushed proposal so we can come back and make a measured decision”.
But councillors from rival groups ignored this, with John Gilligan, Independent, saying: “What we have is the worst of all worlds. No-one understands it.”
He said Cllr Kevin Sheahan should be known as the Mayor of Limerick, as opposed to Limerick City and County, a sentiment shared by Cllr Maurice Quinlivan.
But Mr Murray said this was not possible under the legislation.
Cllr Joe Leddin, Labour, said it “beggars belief” that Department of the Environment officials did not give this thought when changing the legislation for the merger.
But Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) councillor Cian Prendiville said the debate is a “distraction from key issues”. “We are no longer moving the deckchairs on the Titanic - we are just renaming them,” he commented.
Fianna Fail councillor Kieran O’Hanlon called for the setting up of a protocol committee to discuss the titles.
This was backed by northside Fianna Fail councillor Joe Crowley, who has been promoted to Deputy Mayor from Leas-Cathaoirleach as a result of the reform.
“At several events, I have been referred to by a number of titles: Deputy Mayor, councillor, and only once Leas-Cathaoirleach. Most recently, I was called Ceann Comhairle,” he said.
A proposal from Mayor Michael Sheahan to hold off renaming the Cathaoirleach was defeated by 23 votes to 12.