CONCERN has been expressed that Limerick’s St Patrick’s Day parade was hijacked by political groups, while the city’s mayor was pictured apparently lending his support to an anti-austerity campaign during the event.
Mid-way through this year’s parade, Mayor of Limerick Cllr Gerry McLoughlin approached a group from the Campaign against Property Tax and Austerity (CAPTA). He then posed with a placard, in front of photographers and crowds of people, which read “get the snakes out of the Dail”.
Mayor McLoughlin’s intervention is significant because he represents Labour, the junior partner in a Government coalition which has introduced a raft of austerity measures.
Campaigners have seized on the image, inviting the mayor to join them in a demonstration outside Labour Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s office at the weekend.
But fellow Labour councillor Tom Shortt believes the mayor has been “exploited”, and “taken advantage of”.
The mayor declined to comment on the photograph, but in a statement he said it is not fair disadvantaged homeowners are being asked to pay the property tax.
“People are unable to pay their mortgages and those who made purchases of homes prior to the bust are now in negative equity,” he said. “A property tax for these people is nothing more than another cruel blow to an already awful situation. I am against taxing unemployed and vulnerable people beyond what the frail human being could cope with.”
Two council colleagues, Cllr Joe Leddin and Cllr Shortt, have said politics should not play a part in Limerick’s annual parade.
Cllr Shortt said: “I do not believe he [Gerry] was offering support to that campaign. He was at his best during the parade: I think it was a day when he was a good mayor in the sense he got very much into the spirit of things.”
Cllr Leddin admitted he personally did not think it was appropriate the mayor posed with the demonstrators.
But he added that St Patrick’s Day “should not be an excuse for blatant commercialism, and floats which simply have no place in the parade”.
Cian Prendiville, CAPTA said the mayor’s intervention is “not a huge surprise”.
“Labour has already demonstrated a remarkable ability to forget - conveniently forgetting all their pre-election promises as soon as they got their cabinet seats, and forgetting the workers and unemployed that elected them,” said Mr Prendiville.
He said if the action was “not simply an embarrassing mistake”, the mayor should attend the demonstration outside Ms O’Sullivan’s office this Saturday at 2pm.