LABOUR in Limerick is in crisis this week after Mayor Gerry McLoughlin sensationally quit the party.
The mayor, who will go forward as an Independent candidate, said he feels “failed” by the party, accusing some members of not supporting him during his year as first citizen.
And he criticised Minister Jan O’Sullivan for not supporting him over a controversial new community centre in St Mary’s Park.
It is the first time in living memory a mayor has resigned from his party while in office.
And it leaves Fine Gael and Labour facing a headache ahead of the next mayoral election with the Independent/Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail bloc able to claim an extra member.
The rugby legend was first elected to City Council in 2004 as an Independent, but opted to join Labour in 2006, as this is where he felt his “natural home” was. But a number of issues over the last months have persuaded him to leave the party, which is likely to face losses in next summer’s local elections.
He said he felt the fact Ms O’Sullivan was at the cabinet table would have helped the most vulnerable in Limerick.
Despite meetings with the party in the last few months to level his concerns, he feels they have “grown apart”.
“A number of issues have occurred over the last six to eight months, where I would not have received the support of the party, and unfortunately I have felt as if I have gone it alone,” he said.
One of the examples he gave was the time he raised his concerns with Ms O’Sullivan over the St Mary’s Adult Education Centre, and the manner in which it was being run.
He said when members of his community raised the matter with her, they were less than happy with her response.
He added he has not felt supported by fellow Labour councillors.
“Some councillors - one in particular - has not been very helpful with their comments, which are totally the opposite of what mine would be. From the highest level down, there has been a problem,” he said.
Asked to confirm which councillor, he said it was Tom Shortt.
The pair have often been seen disagreeing during meetings.
Mayor McLoughlin believes he remains electable, because of the fact he was initially returned as an Independent, on a personal vote.
He pointed out when he was returned at the 2009 local elections, it was only by slightly more than what he achieved in 2004.
As for next month’s mayoral election, the city east councillor confirmed he would not stick with a Fine Gael/Labour pact drawn up last year which ultimately delivered the first citizenship to him. This in return would have seen a Fine Gael candidate take the chains this year, with Cllr Denis McCarthy and Cllr Pat Kennedy believed to be in line.
“If I was a member of the party, I would be delighted to stick be the agreement. But there is no obligation on me now. I will vote for whoever I think will make the best mayor,” he said.
Councillor Kathleen Leddin has long been the favoured choice of the opposition, having been runner up to Mayor McLoughlin last year.
Now he has moved across the floor, the votes could shift in her favour.
Of her, Mayor McLoughlin said: “I think she would make a very good mayor. She is a very wise lady, and would bring charisma to the job.”
It is not the first time in recent years Labour city councillors have resigned. In 2008, Cllrs James Houlihan and Kieran Walsh quit within weeks of one another.