June 21: Election of Sheahan is symbolic

We extend our congratulations to Cllr Michael Sheahan on being elected Mayor of Limerick this week.

We extend our congratulations to Cllr Michael Sheahan on being elected Mayor of Limerick this week.

And while he may be the 818th person to hold the office, it is difficult to disagree with the assessment of city stalwart Cllr John Gilligan that the office and its long proud traditions have not been somewhat diminished by the merger of Limerick City and County Councils.

That the mayor’s allowance has been slashed by two thirds reflects the fact the role has become even more ceremonial than it already was. And cutting councillors’ salaries in general, while politically popular, hardly fits in with Phil Hogan’s self-professed desire to empower our local public representatives. But that’s for another day.

Eight centuries of Limerick City as a stand-alone political entity are not to be sniffed at but while not forgetting the past, we must also look to the future.

Cllr Sheahan’s election is hugely symbolic in that until a few weeks ago, he was a county councillor. Like the chairman of Limerick City and County Council, Kevin Sheahan (no relation), both hail from Askeaton but the new mayor has long since put down roots in Monaleen.

The pact between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael - historic in its own right - will probably see two former county councillors, Michael Sheahan and Daniel Butler, and one Patrickswell man, Sean Lynch, hold the office of Mayor of Limerick between now and 2019.

No more than on our fine hurling team, Limerick does better when city and county pull together - and Mayor Sheahan’s speech upon his election this week reflected this reality.

And while the mayor no longer gets to chair full council meetings and is no longer required to sign those big city contracts, there are still those ceremonial occasions when he or she will be required.

Chief among those is the freedom of the city, something Mayor Sheahan never got to vote on while on the County Council despite the greater availability of land for grazing sheep.

Our new mayor would like to see the highest honour in the city conferred on more women for a start but also on more people from County Limerick.

And who could disagree with that?