Following the publication of the Local Government (Mayor of Limerick) Bill 2023 Sinn Féin TD for Limerick City Maurice Quinlivan, Senator Paul Gavan and Sinn Féin party leader on Limerick Council Cllr. Sharon Benson have criticised the legislation, stating that it falls significantly short of what Government had promised at the time the plebiscite was held.
Teachta Quinlivan said:
“While Sinn Féin broadly welcome the legislation, having considered it over the last number of days I can only conclude that the people of Limerick may have been sold a pup both when they were polled on this issue back in 2019 and comments from Government members since.
“The then Minister John Paul Phelan produced a white paper on the issue prior to the plebiscite in 2019, and people voted for the establishment of a directly elected Mayor for Limerick on the information available to them at the time.
“Much of the noise following the plebiscite in 2019 was that we would see a significant number of powers removed from central Government and allocated to the new Mayor, but none of this is evident in the legislation that was published recently.
“As the Bill stands, all that has been given to the Mayor is soft power, many of which the present CEO and local councillors already possess, most of which will not go far in enhancing participative local democracy in Limerick, leaving us with a broadly ceremonial role with very little autonomy or authority. This is both a disappointment and a missed opportunity.”
Sinn Féin party leader on Limerick council Cllr. Sharon Benson said:
“The role of the Mayor and the resources that will be made available for the new office need to be defined clearly.
“It is very unfortunate too that it has been scheduled to coincide with the Local and European elections given it has been on the political agenda for over 5 years now. Government inaction has obviously delayed this.
“Our party will seek to amend this legislation as it goes through the Oireachtas with a view to enhancing local democracy as requested by the people of Limerick, and having a Bill that is reflective of what the people of Limerick were led to believe they were voting for back in 2019.”
Senator Gavan added:
“This Bill hasn’t lived up to my expectations and appears to be a bit of a fudge on the part of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
“How the newly elected Mayor operates in Limerick will be watched closely by other Local Authorities given it is the first of its kind, and I feel that instead of reforming local democracy in a way that gives local community a sense of ownership over their own affairs, the Government have opted for a model that will make anyone who was cynical about the need for a Mayor feel validated in their scepticism.
“This Bill was an opportunity to give power back to local structures that have seen their powers stripped back incrementally since the 2014 reforms.
“I believe this is an opportunity missed, largely due to a lack of both courage and ambition on the part of government. I really hope that the Minister is open to the amendments that we will be bringing forward in the Dáil and the Seanad.
“Given this Mayor will set the precedent for all others going forward, it is important that we get this legislation right, and not set out on a path where it is doomed to fail.”