Plenty of colour and a lot of words at new Limerick Mayor's big day

Cllr Stephen Keary sees election pact hold at County Hall

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville

Plenty of colour and a lot of words at new Limerick Mayor's big day

Stephen Keary and his wife Bridie with his son-in-law Patrick O'Donovan and his wife Eileen, their son John and daughter Maria with husband Niall O'Callaghan and children Conor and Jack

EVEN the poor flowers came in for a lash at Monday's meeting of Limerick City and County Council when they gathered to elect a new Mayor.  

They were a reminder, Cllr Seighin O'Ceallaigh SF said, of the flowers the council sent on the occasion of Franco's death.

And he had other, scalding remarks in his arsenal. 

“In the chamber, we have previously complained about the racist views of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. Well now as Mayor of Limerick, we have our very own, Donald Farage,” he said.

Aah, get away with you, Seighin. Poor Stephen is no Trump. He came to Limerick on a bus a long time ago to build houses in Moyross, not hotels. He is a true son of our Republic of Opportunity.

But that was not to be the end of Stephen's day of purgatory. Solidarity's Cllr Cian Prendiville called on Stephen to retract the comments he made at a meeting of the Adare Rathkeale Municipal District which had offended so many non-nationals and which were unfounded and untrue. No half-hearted apology would do this young man. Retract, he demanded.  

Oh yes. It was strong stuff on a warm day when it looked as if half of Croagh had turned out in their best suits and summer frocks to support and celebrate with their man and instead found themselves caught in the crossfire of comments.

"I know what discrimination is," Cllr John Loftus began.  

Growing up in Scotland, he knew what it was to up set upon simply because his parents were from Ireland. Now, he said, "I am an immigrant to Ireland and to this wonderful city."

His wonderful, caring wife, he added, was Hungarian. "I hope what you said today in your apology that you mean it. It really offended my wife and it offended me,” he said. 

Cllr Elena Secas quoted John F Kennedy who said: 'Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country'. "This is the principle I share," Cllr Secas said and she had found Cllr Keary’s remarks “unhelpful”. 

By then, of course, it was all too late anyway. The votes had been counted and Stephen Keary, backed by a combination of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and a few Independents, had won by an Irish mile with 27 votes. The pact had held and in any case, the opposition was divided. Sinn Fein's candidate Cllr John Costello clocked up eight votes; Solidarity's Cllr John Keller just two.

By then too, the new Mayor had set out his stall for the year and had delivered his much-criticised apology before calmly going on to chair the meeting as good and bad were thrown at him.  

“You have apologised not once but twice. What more can you expect? Even that is not enough for some councillors in this room,” declared Cllr Emmett O'Brien, Ind, sympathetically.

“Let us draw a line in the sand,” declared Cllr Michael Collins, Fianna Fail leader. 

"I have no doubt you will do a good job," declared Fine Gael leader in the council, Cllr John Sheahan, who had nominated Cllr Keary for Mayor.

"There are three different types of apology," he said. "Apology by demand, apology by expedience and apology that would be heartfelt. Stephen Keary's apology was heartfelt."

And, in any case, he added, whatever about apologies, "you will be judged by actions"."I have no doubt his actions will tell what sort of man he is.” 

In the midst of all of this, Cllr Marian Hurley's elevation to Deputy Mayor got a bit lost.

But she delivered her acceptance speech with a great dollop of optimism and enthusiasm, mentioning in passing that she and former councillor Mary Jackman had taken part in the wonderful Limerick Sings choral festival over the weekend.

Sing to us, Marian, we begged silently. Sing to us.

It was not to be. Or not then anyway. The singing, we understand, came much later and went on very late into the night in Croagh.  

Looking on from the public gallery,  Derek O’Dwyer whose online petition against Stephen Keary’s election clocked up over 2000 signatures said it was “more coronation than election”. He was clearly sad that a “dinosaur” would now represent Limerick, whose best feature, he argued, was its very diversity. 

By teatime, the roadside signs had gone up in Croagh, proclaiming it was home to the new Mayor. Happily for him, the day’s events have, we understand, been immortalised on DVD. We’re not sure about the bad bits, though.