THE mayor of Limerick last night expressed his “sadness” that a full meeting of the city council could not agree to award the Freedom of the City to a man described as one of the finest Limerick men of his time.
Limerick Civic Trust director Denis Leonard, 62, died at the weekend, after a short illness.
Mayor Kevin Kiely said when he learned Mr Leonard was very ill, he contacted the party leaders on the council with a view to bestowing on him the Freedom of the City.
The mayor said he was informed there was a problem within Labour about the proposal. Mr Kiely said he asked Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan to intervene and to get her party on the council to “do the right thing”.
When the protocol committee, which comprises the full 17-member council met on Monday last, Mr Kiely’s proposal needed the support of 12 councillors.
Nine Fine Gael members voted to give Mr Leonard the Freedom of the City and were supported by independent John Gilligan.
The sole Fianna Fáil member, Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon who was not present, told the mayor he would sign the necessary document granting the Freedom of the City to Mr Leonard.
Mr Kiely said: “Today I am very saddened and, as a result of what has happened, during the rest of my mayoralty I won’t be putting anybody else forward for the Freedom of the City. This has left a very sour taste in my mouth and my mayoralty. They should have supported me.”
He described Mr Leonard as one of the finest Limerick men of his time, who as director of the Civic Trust raised more than €16 million towards the restoration of historic buildings and structures in the city.
“Few have done more for Limerick than Denis Leonard,” he added.
Ms O’Sullivan said she did not wish to comment on any decisions made in private by the city council.
Cllr Joe Leddin, the Labour leader on Limerick City Council, said he would not comment on the meeting other than the process on the matter had been flawed. He said no decision had been made.
Mr Leonard died while awaiting a lung transplant. A family member said he was next in line for a transplant but contracted pneumonia.
Mr Leonard’s body will today lay in repose at The Georgian House in Pery Square which became a Civic Trust flagship under his stewardship.
Meanwhile, Harry Fehily, president of Limerick Chamber, said Mr Leonard’s impact on the city was immeasurable. “Denis’s life work was all about protecting our heritage. We will be eternally grateful for what he has done and his passing is a huge loss.”
Past chamber president and friend Tadhg Kearney said: “Denis loved Limerick, its history, people and most of all its built environment. As an act of patriotism, he dedicated the bulk of his working life to the promotion of Limerick’s heritage and the preservation and restoration of many of Limerick’s landmarks, large and small, and many that would have been forgotten had it not been for Denis’s keen eye.”
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