as many as five city councillors are likely to retire before next summer’s local elections, it has been claimed.
Due to a massive increase in the size of Limerick’s electoral areas, following recommendations by the boundary commission, a number of local representatives could decide to quit.
With turnout in the metropolitan area traditionally lower than in rural parishes, many city councillors are likely to face stern competition from members serving in county areas - and are likely to need to at least double their vote count.
The new areas will see a massive eight-seater constituency stretching from Garryowen out to Montpelier, and another connecting the city centre to Patrickswell.
And many might feel this is a campaign too far, says Fine Gael’s leader on the council, Cllr Diarmuid Scully.
His thoughts were reflected by Labour councillor Tom Shortt.
If councillors do retire, they will be in line for a means-tested payoff, worth €3,550 for each year of service, capped at €50,000.
This scheme is activated once a councillor has completed two years of service, which is the case with each member in the city.
One member who is definitely bowing out is northside councillor Cormac Hurley, who will step down this autumn.
But it is understood that four more are likely to retire from local politics.
This week, members were putting on a united front, insisting they will go forward.
But with councillors due to get a more comprehensive breakdown of the new areas in the next fortnight, this may cause them to reconsider.
Cllr Scully confidently predicted up to five members would not stand again.
“Due to the size of the city, and the lower turnout in local elections [...] the electoral losses are likely to be on the city side. Again, I think it will weigh on a few minds, and yes we do have people who we know are retiring. I would expect out of the 17 [councillors], and I am not going to name names, I would see five not going ahead from the city,” he told the Limerick Leader.
With the Labour party to meet in the coming days to begin deciding on a strategy for the election, Cllr Shortt says there will definitely be change.
“People are trying to comprehend this. Will there be councillors who will just decide this is the moment to retire? I think this will influence a number of councillors who are of an age, and do not want to have to canvass in a new, bigger area. It is going to be a campaign which will demand energy from people. It is going to be a challenging election, and it is going to see change. A lot of people are looking at who will use this as a moment to bow out,” he said.
The longest serving councillor at City Hall, Fine Gael councillor Pat Kennedy said he has not yet made a decision on whether he will run again.
“I think the way the boundary has been withdrawn, it could actually suit me quite well. A lot of my support that I would have traditionally had in the city would have moved out to Dooradoyle and Ballycummin over the years,” he said.
Cllr Kennedy - who is in line for a fourth mayoral term - said it will depend on the other candidates Fine Gael decides to field in the election, expected next May. “I’m in very good form and I have a lot of experience having been first elected in 1967. If I feel it is in the interests of the city and of my party to stand, I could very well stand again. But if I felt the party had enough good candidates, I might not stand,” he explained.
Cllr Kevin Kiely has said he will stand at this time - despite being “out of the scene for a while”.
Cllr Kathleen Leddin says she “hopes” to run.
Full coverage: P6-7