THE Government’s proposed reforms of local government have put paid to fears that the 800-year-old office of Mayor of Limerick was about to consigned to the dustbin of history, Cllr Pat Kennedy has said.
Limerick’s longest-serving politician has welcomed confirmation that the office will endure - but over an expanded “metropolitan district” with a population of 100,000. They will continue to perform the traditional mayoral functions but will serve alongside a chairperson of the new local authority once the city and county councils are amalgamated.
City councillors had initially opposed the merger plans, arguing instead for an extension of the city boundary. But Cllr Kennedy has now given Minister Phil Hogan’s plans his backing, confident they can enhance rather than diminish the status of the city.
The minister’s Putting People First document, Cllr Kennedy declared, “has significant and unprecedented opportunities for Limerick city and the proposed wider metropolitan Limerick city district”. At the heart of the proposals was building the city’s capacity “to promote social and economic development thus enabling Limerick city to be a dynamic force for growth”.
“The redefining of the extended Limerick city urban area with a population of 100,000 within the new unified Limerick authority will focus on Limerick city as the driver for economic development in the wider Limerick metropolitan area,” he said.
A three-time mayor, Cllr Kennedy expressed his satisfaction that annual mayoral elections are to continue.
“There will be a mayor for the city - i.e. the enlarged metropolitan district, who will continue to have all the civic, ceremonial and other traditional functions and status of the mayoral office. The mayor will be the chief representative of Limerick city, as well as chairing the metropolitan district. The city mayor will be separate from the office of the chair or leader of the unified city and county authority,” he said.
And Cllr Kennedy is confident that the headquarters of the new authority will remain in City Hall.
There had been fears that a decision in favour of the more modern county council headquarters in Dooradoyle could have led to the exodus of 500 council staff from the middle of the city.
Cllr Kennedy is confident that the new authority “will lead to the revitalisation of Limerick city centre, including the redevelopment of strategic derelict sites”, including the Opera Centre purchased by City Hall with the assistance of central government for €12.5 million earlier this year.