LABOUR and independent councillors are turning up the heat on Fine Gael whether they intend to support the mayoral bid of Cllr Pat Kennedy, while he remains the subject of disciplinary proceedings within his own party.
Under a pact the Fine Gael barrister is due be elected Mayor on June 25 next, but now that pact is under serious threat.
Limerick’s longest serving politician last year returned almost €1,700 to Limerick City Council for mileage expenses claimed while his Mercedes was off the road following an accident. A report by former city manager Tom Mackey and Mayor Jim Long exonerated Cllr Kennedy, accepting his explanation “an honest and genuine mistake” was made.
But it subsequently emerged that Cllr Kennedy also made refunds to other bodies – including the Association of County and City Councils and the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland - in respect of mileage claims submitted for the same vehicle.
Mr Mackey’s report was forwarded to the Standards in Public Office Commission for information purposes but the ethics watchdog confirmed to the Leader it was not investigating the matter as it had never received a formal complaint.
But Cllr Kennedy is not yet out of the woods with his own party as a Fine Gael spokesperson told the Leader; “the internal disciplinary process is ongoing”.
Elected as an independent in 2009, it was Cllr Kennedy’s return to the Fine Gael fold that delivered the party a working majority and five mayoralties this term.
Under a pact sealed in that year, Cllr Kennedy was due to become mayor for a third time in 2012-2013. But Labour’s Cllr Joe Leddin says recent controversies must put that in doubt.
“It is up to the Fine Gael party but I would be concerned, in terms of the office of mayor, that whoever the incumbent is would certainly not be attracting negative media attention locally or nationally because of issues that are still outstanding,” declared Cllr Leddin.
Independent councillor John Gilligan added: “Fine Gael (councillors) are desperately hoping that their party headquarters will dig them out of hole and make a decision for them because they don’t have what it takes to make a decision for themselves”.
But Fine Gael’s leader on the council, Diarmuid Scully, expects that the pact will hold and Cllr Kennedy will be elected Mayor of Limerick on June 25.
This would require the support of Cllr Kevin Kiely, elected for Fine Gael but an independent since failing to get on the party’s general election ticket.
“As far as we are concerned, Pat Kennedy is the candidate. He is the person that we have agreed to nominate and my understanding is that we do have the support; we have the nine votes currently; Kevin Kiely will be voting with us. He has confirmed that much,” Cllr Scully said.
But Cllr Kiely insisted he remains undecided on who he will support as mayor. The 2009 agreement to which he was a party was signed while he was a member of Fine Gael, he said.
Cllr Kennedy declined to comment when contacted by the Leader.