March 22 - Local election candidates and the big picture

THE campaign for arguably the most fascinating local election to be fought in Limerick for generations is well and truly under way.

THE campaign for arguably the most fascinating local election to be fought in Limerick for generations is well and truly under way.

For several weeks now, the Leader has been bringing readers the latest twists and turns as candidates are selected, or in some cases rejected. Some long-standing local representatives are leaving the stage, several of whom have performed admirable service for their communities. It would be unfair to single out some at the expense of others, but suffice to say that a few of those bowing out would have every chance of winning a seat in the joint local authority, while for others the increased difficulty of getting elected in the new and enlarged local areas has perhaps made the decision for them.

Sadly, health issues have also taken a heavy toll and we have seen even the death of one would-be candidate who seemed destined to cause a stir or two, the late and colourful garage owner Mick Daly.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the current clamour to get on the ballot paper is the enduring lure of politics for Limerick people. It seems to matter not a whit that the public’s disenchantment with politicians has reached new levels in these recessionary times. Politics is a drug and when it has you in its grip, resistance is usually futile. It can also, of course, be something of a blood sport. Take the case of the bright young barrister Emmett O’Brien, a leading light in his Pallaskenry community and until recently a Fianna Fail loyalist with his eye on a seat in the Adare Rathkeale local area.

Amid claims of betrayal on the party of the Fianna Fail hierarchy at national level – and following a selection contest that saw him lose out to that wily old campaigner Kevin Sheahan – Mr O’Brien has decided to take the Independent route rather than fold his tent. It is a path often taken and sometimes it leads on to good fortune. In any eventuality, we welcome his decision because each of the new Limerick local areas deserves a list of candidates that offers choice, that boasts proven experience as well as the potential of youth.

Thankfuly for those of us who will never take the giant step of putting ourselves before the people, the magical prospect of being given a mandate, of being declared elected by the returning officer, will never lose its appeal locally.

Nor should it, because while some local councillors elected last time around have made a meagre contribution to public life, the opportunity presented by the all-Limerick authority demands that high-quality individuals put themselves forward. The next five years will be absolutely critical in determining whether the tangible but still modest improvements Limerick has seen in recent times are not just sustained, but are brought to a new level. In particular, the recovery of the city centre – a topic with which readers of this column will be deeply familiar – must take precedence.

Candidates who can see this bigger picture, while also working hard in the interests of communities which may be a long way from Limerick city – deserve be favourably considered when the time comes to put a No 1 vote on that ballot paper.