THE people have spoken but those elected on to Limerick City and County Council cannot agree on what exactly they have said.
On a weekend when at least seven councillors lost their seats in the city, Sinn Fein and the Anti-Austerity Alliance both took three council seats in the Metropolitan District and interpreted the results as a radicalised electorate turfing out the tried and distrusted.
But Fianna Fail and Fine Gael come out of this election as the largest parties in the overall council and within the three city electoral areas. Labour have had a disappointing election but Minister Jan O’Sullivan pointed out that they have the same number of city-based councillors - three - as when they went in.
At the time of going to press a recount in Limerick City East was in progress with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail hoping to take six seats in the Limerick Metropolitan District - whose 21 councillors will elect a mayor next month.
The people of Limerick have put their trust in councillors in their 20s and in councillors who are unemployed. “The victims of austerity will now have a voice,” said Cllr Cian Prendiville, one of three AAA winners.
“For too long we have had enough politicians and parties representing the millionaires what the AAA wants to do is build a new voice for the millions.”
The AAA, he said, would not do any deals with what he termed the austerity parties of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour.
Sinn Fein, who could win up to six seats across Limerick city and county, don’t have the numbers to control the whole council with one of Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.
But poll-topping Cllr Maurice Quinlivan said there was nothing to stop the party doing a deal with others to elect a mayor.
“We will sit down with anybody. Sure don’t we talk to the DUP,” he said.
Fianna Fail’s Deputy Niall Collins said that while Sinn Fein might be topping the poll around the country, Fianna Fail had won a larger share of the vote in Limerick and elsewhere.
“You have the headline of Sinn Fein taking seats in most areas, which is fine and well done to them. But I think the real story in the election when the cold analysis is done will be the recovery of Fianna Fail, which has come through in terms of an increased seat take in the city,” said Deputy Collins.
Fine Gael may have lost control of the council but the party had performed well, according to city constituency chairman Cian Kelly, given the anti-government sentiment and the retirement of councillors through illness and other reasons.
“We had the retirement of five councillors. One councillor [Richard Butler] passed away and a candidate [Timmy O’Connor] had to pull out during the campaign, which was illness-related as well and left very little time to deal with it. Those kinds of issues in the middle of a campaign makes it very, very difficult,” said Mr Kelly.
Attention now switches to who will control the council and the Limerick metropolitan area.
Fianna Fail’s Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon has joined newly elected FF member Joe Crowley and Fine Gael’s Michael Hourigan in indicating support for the two parties doing business on that score.
Cllr Crowley said: “I would probably see a fit of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. If we are going to discuss strategy, that is where it is likely to be.
“I think there will be a pact there. It would be historic, but I think it would be very stable,” he added.