The bell has tolled for the title of metropolitan mayor, to the disappointment of former Mayor John Gilligan
EIGHT centuries of history “disposed of” in half-an-hour. That was Cllr John Gilligan’s take on this week's council vote to drop the title Mayor of Limerick Metropolitan District and replace it with Cathaoirleach. The proposal was passed by 16 votes to six, with one abstention.
“Limerick city has had a Mayor for 800 years. Today we simply got rid of it,” he told the Limerick Leader afterwards.
“I do indeed feel very strongly about it. It doesn’t make sense at all. I don’t think you can take that amount of history out and say it doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. I am disappointed.”
In all Metropolitan areas around the world, he pointed out, they have a Mayor and he argued that had the city been given the boundary extension it sought over five years ago, the problem would never have arisen and there would have been none of the confusion other councillors talked about.
At yesterday’s meeting, Cllr Gilligan opposed the proposal. “There should be one Mayor,” he agreed. But he argued that the Mayor of Limerick should be the Metropolitan Mayor and that the title of Cathaoirleach should apply to the person heading up the full council.
The majority of councillors however disagreed.
“This is an issue that has been ongoing,” said Cllr John Sheahan when he proposed the change. There had been confusion having two Mayors over the past five years, with people talking about Big Mayors and Small Mayors.
“There are 800 years of history attached to the title of Mayor of Limerick City,” he acknowledged, but he argued they needed to clarify the issue and have one Mayor.
The confusion about who was Mayor, Cllr Kevin Sheahan pointed out, was made even worse when he held the title Mayor of Limerick City and County and another Sheahan, Cllr Michael Sheahan was Mayor in the city. “And to make matters worse, we were both from Askeaton,” he said.
“This isn’t a question of taking anything away from anybody,” council chief executive Conn Murray said. And he pointed out that historically, the original Mayor of Limerick held sway over much more than the city.
Supporting the proposal, Cllr Stephen Keary said it was “time to move on and to consign the robe and chains to a glass case”.
“It is now a new authority. I think we should evolve and make the changes,” he declared.
Cllr Liam Galvin also agreed. When the hurlers go out on the pitch in a fortnight’s time, he declared, they will play under the banner of Limerick.
“There is no divide. We are the one people, supporting the one county, the one city.”
Cllr Seighin O’Ceallaigh, noting that almost half the councillors were missing, said, “Some people thought electioneering was more important than 800 years of history.”
Five years on after the amalgamation, he said, there was still a lot of duplication, with two council buildings, two chambers.
“We do need to decide,” he said. He proposed an amendment that the title of Mayor of Limerick City and County be changed to that of Cathaoirleach while the title Mayor would remain with the Metropolitan District. But his proposal was deemed a new proposal and not an amendment.