Public Affairs

Limerick prepares for first ever mayoral election

In a first in this State, the people of Limerick will vote for a directly elected mayor in June 2024, on the same date as the local and European elections.

In 2019, referendums were held in Limerick, Waterford, and Cork over the prospect of these cities having directly elected mayors. Voters in Waterford and Cork rejected the proposal, while it was endorsed by the electorate of Limerick.

Limerick has had over 600 mayors in its history, dating back as far as 1197, but the next mayor will be the first to be elected.

In addition, the elected mayor will have powers never before conferred on their predecessors, including executive functions in strategic development, housing and building, roads, transport, and the environment.

The mayor will have executive power in these functions over the area which comprises Limerick City and County Council.

Results from the two Limerick constituencies (Limerick City and Limerick County) in the last general election suggest that the three major parties stand the best chance of emerging victorious, with the two constituencies currently represented by two Fine Gael TDs, two Fianna Fáil TDs, one Sinn Féin TD, one Green Party TD, and one independent.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD announced in June 2023 that his government intended to hold a referendum on the possibility of a directly elected mayor in Dublin concurrently with the local and European elections in 2024, but the Government has given no indication that this will take place.

Varadkar announced this in the aftermath of a Citizens’ Assembly report recommending that a directly elected mayor of Dublin should be responsible for oversight of 15 policy areas including homelessness, housing, community healthcare, transport, the environment, and emergency services.

The Citizens’ Assembly also recommends that the mayor have the power to raise revenues and to borrow, further suggesting that the mayor should have the power to introduce new regulations and to convene meetings with local and national agencies.

Locally elected mayors are a common feature of American and British democracy, with all of the United States’ major cities, as well as most small towns, electing mayors with local executive powers.

In Britain, mayoralties have been consistently established since government reforms enacted under Tony Blair’s Labour government (which also saw the introduction of devolution in the North, Scotland, and Wales). However, the approval of these roles has been mixed, with support high in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham but having been abolished in towns and cities such as Hartlepool and Liverpool.

At the time of print, only one candidate has been announced for the upcoming election, Green Party TD Brian Leddin. Independent businessman Fionán Coughlan, who runs the Limerick Milk Market, had announced his candidacy in 2021, but dropped out on 8 February 2024.

It is likely that Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Sinn Féin will also put forward candidates.

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