The newly elected metropolitan district mayor of Limerick Cllr Sean Lynch in his office at City Hall Picture: Michael Cowhey
WHEN former detective garda Sean Lynch took the chains to become the metropolitan mayor of Limerick, he believes he created a bit of history in the Treaty City.
“I think I must be the first Tipperary man to be the mayor of Limerick,” he says, stating he believes his office to be the same as the ancient role of the city’s first citizen.
To lend weight to his assertion, he wears an old city mayoral chain.
While it is, of course, hard to verify whether the father-of-four is the first man from the Premier County to lead the city, what is in no doubt, is that Cllr Lynch will bring a new dynamic to the office, with his year set to focus on mental health, crime prevention and being kind to one another.
Surveying the majestic river Shannon from his office in City Hall, he smiles: “I’m just so proud to be here.”
“We have three major projects – the Hanging Gardens, the Riverside development, and the Opera site. This is going to create 4,000 jobs in the city. And this with the public realm: we’re going to have a new city in four or five years’ time. It is unbelievable to be on the cusp of this,” he says.
In his 27 years with An Garda Siochana – the lion’s share of the time attached to Roxboro station – Cllr Lynch became a well known figure, and was widely credited with playing a big role in bringing some of Limerick’s criminal kingpins to justice.
But he says he sees himself as a “champion of the underdog”.
“My door is always open. I am a champion of the people. I have always been a champion of the people, and anyone who knows me in my 27 years working in the city will know this. Whether you were good or bad, I was always there, trying to fix things for people if I could at all. I wasn’t one to rush people to court – that was a last resort. And many people will back up this claim. I want to reach out to both the good and the bad,” he tells the Leader.
Born and raised in Mid-Tipperary (he prefers not to say where exactly because of his previous career), Cllr Lynch was always attracted to Limerick, initially because it was within driving distance of his family’s farm.
Then he met his now wife Valerie and settled in her home place of Patrickswell.
Taking up the story, the new metropolitan mayor said: “I think Patrickswell were after winning the County Final, and a friend of mine from North Tipperary, a man by the name of Jack O’Sullivan, who ran a petrol station just outside Birdhill, and was a great GAA man. I happened to meet him, and we went from where we were to a venue where there was a victory dance, and that’s where we met! The rest is history!”
Married in 1990, Sean and Valerie are proud parents to four children: sons Kelvin, 23, county hurling star Cian, 21 and daughters Nicole, 21 and Patrice, 14.
A reflective man, and a committed Catholic, one thing Cllr Lynch enjoys is taking time out to think.
“One thing I took from home is respect where you can find a bit of solace. For me, it is going into a nice country church. Reflecting is what life is all about. I feel the present generation have lost that somewhat. Life moves too fast for all of us. We need to sit down, relax and take a moment to reflect on our lives,” he said.
To this end, he wants to see a set time each week, where people ‘check in’ with each other, to check if they are okay.
“If we can pick a day and time, we can be the steering light. No matter where you are, be it in a shopping centre, or at church, or in court, or in an interview. At that time, I’d like to see everyone stop, turn to the person next to them, and ask if they are okay. Take those couple of seconds to be reflective,” he explained, “Maybe it’s something we could roll out nationally, and could be brought into everyone’s lives.
“It’s sad, no-one takes time out anymore. We need to stop and say ‘hang on’. If we start, the younger generation might follow suit. We need to be leading lights on this,” Cllr Lynch said.
Fianna Fail councillor Lynch – who was first elected to Limerick council a year after his retirement from the force – has also called for social media to be banned in schools, and regulated among youngsters outside of educational hours.
“Social media plays a huge role. We are all culprits because we are the ones who gave our kids smartphones. There are so many children who do not know who to turn to if they are being bullied on social media.
“We need to highlight this. Schools need to be the start. Maybe younger married couples might consider giving a bit more thought to buying their children phones. How many kids do you see outside running, or climbing trees and walls? It just doesn’t happen anymore,” he said.
For almost three decades, Cllr Lynch served the city in the navy blue uniform of the gardai – and became used to receiving telephone calls at all hours of the night.
He admits that he misses that somewhat, saying: “I used to love that phone call at 3am. But the downside is you can be gone from your family for long periods of time. From 2004 onwards it was a very busy period. But you make huge sacrifices, and you don’t realise until afterwards that you’re doing it.”
However, now he is putting all his efforts into leading the city.
“I will be a champion for the city. That’s my ambition. I am reaching out to everyone here,” he concluded.