HE may have been involved in many close encounters on the pitch but there was no last-minute drama at Monday’s mayoral election which confirmed Labour’s Cllr Gerry McLoughlin as Limerick’s first citizen.
While the Labour-Fine Gael pact that delivered the mayoralty for Cllr McLoughlin was only sealed last week, the former Munster and Ireland rugby great said he intended to hit the ground running after defeating independent Cllr Kathleen Leddin by 13 votes to four.
First elected as an independent eight years ago, Cllr McLoughlin said he had “learned a lot along the way”; was “well-versed on the many plans for the city” and “the role of mayor is one that I am now very prepared for”.
Only a week ago, Fine Gael had said it merely required a public explanation of his controversial expense claims to ensure Cllr Pat Kennedy would be elected mayor. In the interim, the party said its approach to Labour for support was also driven by the need to have a stable council ahead of the amalgamation of the two Limerick local authorities and other political challenges.
A magnanimous Mayor McLoughlin noted the irony that it was Pat Kennedy who had persuaded him to go into politics eight years ago.
“I wouldn’t be here tonight if it wasn’t for Pat Kennedy,” said the mayor, explaining who was having a “difficult time getting things done” in City Hall when Cllr Kennedy took him aside and suggested he run for election.
Cllr Kennedy had “gone through a horrid time of it” in recent weeks and “would have made an excellent mayor”, said Mayor McLoughlin.
Having had to emigrate to Wales during the last deep recession of the 1980s, Cllr McLoughlin said he was putting job creation at the top of his agenda for the next 12 months.
“With the massive regeneration investment by the state, I contend that regeneration will count for nothing if the local labour force is not to the fore,” he declared.
In the absence of another nomination, Fine Gael’s Cllr Maria Byrne was elected unopposed as deputy mayor, completing a Shannon-Garryowen ticket in high office.
The Mayor receives a salary of €50,008, with an allowance of €10,000 for running the office. This is on top of the councillor’s salary of €16,724 plus expenses.