Directly Elected Mayor of Limerick

On 7 June 2024, the people of Limerick will vote for their first directly elected Mayor with executive powers. Legislation to create this new role was signed into law by the President on 6 March 2024.

  • 2024 Directly Elected Mayor of Limerick updated 810x456
  1. Background to the new directly elected Mayor
  2. The role of the directly elected Mayor
  3. Entities supporting the directly elected Mayor
  4. Other roles at Limerick City and County Council

1. Background to the new directly elected Mayor

The 2019 plebiscite

  • In May 2019, the people of Limerick city and county voted in favour of a proposal for a directly elected Mayor with executive functions.

Designing the office of the directly elected Mayor of Limerick city and county

  • The process to define the specific duties and role of the directly elected Mayor involved a wide range of stakeholders from Limerick city and county, such as representatives from the local business community, the academic, health and community sectors, and the general public.
  • Council members and executives also contributed, and the participants drew from studies that looked at elected mayors in other jurisdictions around the world.

Legislation

  • The legislation to create this new role was signed by the President in early March 2024.
  • There will now be an election to choose a Mayor, and it will be held together with the local and European elections on 7 June.
  • Limerick is the first ever local authority in Ireland where the voters will be able to directly elect their Mayor, and the person who is successful will be the first mayor in the country's history to have executive powers.

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2. The role of the directly elected Mayor

Mayor's role in Limerick City and County Council

  • Creating the position of a directly elected Mayor for Limerick city and county will improve service delivery and enhance democratic accountability within Limerick, both of which represent a major gain for all of the county's residents.
  • The Mayor will have an executive and representative role in Limerick City and County Council.
    • Executive – the Mayor will assume responsibility for many of the functions that are currently performed by the Chief Executive, who at is present the executive head of Limerick City and County Council.
    • Representative – the Mayor will assume the role of Limerick's first citizen, which is currently performed by the Cathaoirleach, and so will represent the city and county locally, on the national stage and in an international setting. The people of Limerick will be represented by a candidate they chose via a direct democratic vote.

Mayor’s executive functions – significant change

  • The directly elected Mayor of Limerick will be unique in Ireland as they will be the first mayor with executive powers. This means that they will be able to develop and implement strategies and initiatives that benefit Limerick city and county.
  • As a result, the office of Mayor in Limerick will change radically: the current role is being replaced by an officeholder who will personally define and oversee many of the policies that shape the local authority's activities.
  • Some of the fields covered by the Mayor's executive powers:
    • Strategic planning – the Mayor will design and propose long-term plans that drive the economic and spatial development of Limerick as a whole, such as the Limerick development plan
    • Housing strategy – the Mayor will put forward a housing strategy for Limerick and ensure its delivery
    • Road transport – the Mayor will focus on road transport and safety in Limerick, which will involve road maintenance and improvement, along with traffic management
    • Environment – the Mayor will develop services that protect and enhance the environment in Limerick

Mayoral programme

  • When the Mayor takes office, they will produce a document that explains their vision and objectives for their period as Mayor. This document will be known as the mayoral programme, and it will remain in force for the Mayor's entire term of office.

Term of office

  • The election for the Mayor will take place on the same day as the local election for Limerick's councillors.
  • The Mayor will remain in office for five years because this new role has the same electoral cycle as the councillors.
  • The Mayor can serve a maximum of two terms of office. These two terms can be consecutive or non-consecutive.

Directly elected Mayor and Limerick City and County Council

  • The Mayor will receive additional funding from central government to put their programme into action. Furthermore, they will be responsible for proposing Limerick City and County Council's annual budget to councillors, who will vote on this budget.
  • The Mayor will not just be accountable to the public at election time – while in office, their performance will also be scrutinised by councillors at the council's plenary meetings. Councillors are entitled to study and question mayoral reports and participate in mayor's questions.

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3. Entities supporting the directly elected Mayor

  • The creation of the new position of directly elected Mayor will be a departure from the current two-pillar structure of local government in Limerick City and County Council. It represents a move to a three-pillar structure composed of:
    • The elected Limerick City and County Council
    • A directly elected Mayor
    • A Director General – formerly the Chief Executive

New structures to support the Mayor

  • A Limerick Mayoral and Government Consultative Forum will facilitate engagement between the Mayor and the national government.
  • An Implementation Committee will support the Mayor and the mayoral programme, which will set out the vision and objectives for the Mayor’s term of office.
  • A Limerick Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board will focus on implementing the key planning and infrastructure strategies in the Limerick area. The board will be chaired by the Mayor.
  • A Limerick Delivery Board Transport Subgroup, with a focus on transport infrastructure and services, will also be chaired by the Mayor.

Staff

  • The Mayor will have five administrative staff to support their office. This may include a special advisor if the Mayor so chooses, in which case there will be an advisor and four administrative staff.
  • The term of appointment of a special adviser will end when the Mayor ceases to hold office.
  • All administrative staff will be drawn from local authority employees.

Other bodies

  • The Mayor will automatically be a member of a number of local and regional government bodies:
    • Limerick City and County Council - as an ex officio member of the council, the Mayor will be subject to the same rights, responsibilities and duties as the other elected members
    • The Southern Regional Assembly
    • The Local Community Development Committee

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4. Other roles at Limerick City and County Council

Elected council

  • The elected council retains its primacy and performs a crucial governance role in the oversight of the Mayor. It does not lose its current powers and functions.
  • The Mayor will be fully accountable to the elected council in relation to their mayoral executive functions, including through the mayor’s report and mayor’s questions at plenary council meetings.

Reserved functions

  • The elected council has reserved functions. These will not change. They include:
    • Adopting the council’s annual budget by way of vote
    • Adopting council policies
    • Altering the local property tax rate
    • Making a city and county development plan
    • Deciding the annual rate on valuation for commercial rates
    • Selling or disposing of council land
    • Approving grant schemes
    • Adopting a corporate plan and a service delivery plan

Príomh Chomhairleoir and functions

  • There will no longer be a Cathaoirleach. Instead, the Príomh Chomhairleoir will chair the elected council's meetings and act as its speaker, with support from the Leas-Phríomh Chomhairleoir. 

Director General

  • The Director General replaces the Chief Executive. A range of executive functions will remain the responsibility of the Director General. Their powers and responsibilities relate to the day-to-day operation of Limerick City and County Council.

Overview of the Director General's functions

  • The role of the Director General is to support the Mayor and manage the day-to-day operation of the local authority. There are specific functions that will remain with the Director General and for which they are accountable to the council. These can be summarised as:
    • The administration of schemes, grants and loans, including decisions on applications under enactments for the granting of a permission, approval, permit, consent, certificate, licences, or other form of statutory authorisation
    • HR and local authority staffing matters, including the appointment of staff and the preparation of HR strategies
    • Functions arising from the accounting officer role, managing and accounting for the council’s finances
    • Functions relating to the holding of polls and the management of elections
    • Functions arising from the operation of key schemes and service level agreements such as HAP Shared Services
    • Compliance and enforcement matters and the taking of legal proceedings arising from these functions

Review of the legislation and the role of Mayor

  • The legislation contains a provision to review the operation of the legislation within three years. This, along with the role of the Consultative Forum, will enable the further development and expansion of the role of the directly elected Mayor going forward.

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