FINE Gael look set to do a deal with Labour to give the main opposition party a mayoralty in Limerick City Council’s final year.
The Limerick Leader has learned that intensive talks have been ongoing between the two dominant parties on the City Council. Northside councillor Cormac Hurley has voluntarily agreed to put his ambitions for the first citizenship aside to ensure the Mayoralty goes to Fine Gael for at least the next two years. He was originally slated to be mayor in 2013-14, the final year of the current council.
Fine Gael no longer has a majority at City Hall, after northside councillor Kevin Kiely was expelled from the party when he ran as an Independent at the general election, after he failed to secure a nomination to run for FG.
Cllr Kiely has long been friends with Cllr Long, and it is believed he will vote for the southside councillor, along with the rest of Fine Gael.
Since Fine Gael no longer have the magic nine seats, which gave them a majority on the 17-member City Council, picking up support from elsewhere has become crucial.
With Cllr Kiely unlikely to vote for the next two Fine Gael nominees for the chains – Cllrs Pat Kennedy and Cormac Hurley respectively – the party’s leadership has been forced to act.
Labour have been offered a mayoralty, and a deputy mayoralty, as well as a committee chairmanship - all of which come with extra salaries on top of the councillors representational pay-ments.
However, because the eight-member party needs the support of just one other member for an absolute majority, it could even approach Independent councillor Kathleen Leddin for her support in return for a year as first citizen.
Although the veteran councillor - first elected in 1999 - is the longest serving member not to have worn the chains, informed sources have indicated this is not likely to happen as Fine Gael are thought to favour a deal with a single party which can enforce a whip.
The leader of the Fine Gael bloc at City Hall, Cllr Diarmuid Scully declined to comment on any negotiations.
He said: “Any negotiations we have with other party groups are confidential, and will remain that way. Information can only be released once I have given authorisation to release the details.”
When contacted by the Limerick Leader, Cllr Long insisted he had “100 per cent support” from his own party, and added: “I would be expecting the support of those people whom I supported.”
Labour are expected to finalise their strategy at a party meeting early next week, while the Mayoral election will take place at the council’s annual general meeting on Monday, June 27.