Dee Ryan for Mayor of Limerick

“We need to coax and manage kids through that difficult phase and ensure they stay on the right path and don’t veer down the road of criminality. Certainly, if we had more Gardaí present in the village, engaging with the community, I’d be confident we could do better.

Dee Ryan


Hello, and welcome to a very special episode where I’m speaking with Dee Ryan from Castleconnell — my home village — who is running for the first directly elected Mayor of Limerick. I am so proud of this woman. She is an inspiration and an absolute joy. We’re all rooting for her to win because she definitely is the very best candidate of all the fifteen who have put themselves forward to serve as the Mayor of Limerick. 

Vig: Welcome Dee Ryan. Well done to you! What an effort you’ve made! You have to win!

Dee: Well, we’re giving it a fair shot anyway, we’re giving it a wack. Yeah.

Vig: Now, I believe you are definitely the front-runner to win the Mayor election in Limerick. What I want to know is what sparked the fire in the heart of a Castleconnell girl that made you aspire to take on this massive role and step up to such a fabulous podium.

Dee: Hi, Vig thanks so much for talking to me. I’m delighted to do an interview going to my home village Castleconnell and all the people I grew up with and who influenced me over the years. 

What sparked my passion? I’m very interested in politics and have been for the last 10 or 15 years. When I got into my 30s and started having kids, that’s when I realised how important the decisions made by our elected representatives are – to all of us in our lives. 

I also had the experience of running a business through the recession, a very challenging time to be running a business. And again, I was aware of government policy, funding and support, and how that impacted me and my life. So that’s got me interested in politics. And then really it was my last five years as the chief executive of Limerick Chamber, where – on a regular basis – I was looking at issues that elected

Dee Ryan. Photo by Don Moloney
Photo by Don Moloney

representatives have control over. They are the decision-makers, as it pertains to Limerick and to the Midwest from an economic perspective. Like roads, the Northern Distributor Road. If we can get that back on the government’s agenda we can secure support for the Cork to Limerick motorway. And we get continued support to drive that through. The importance of things like Shannon Airport, and, of course, the biggest issue for the business community over the last five years, has undoubtedly been housing.

Housing impacts employers’ ability to attract and retain workers in Limerick and hold on to the fabulous graduates and school leavers that we have in Limerick. We need to give them an opportunity to have a full life here in Limerick. So that’s working with the politicians, the TDs, the ministers, the directors of different services, councillors, and the Chief Executive of the local authority. All this got me completely engrossed and in the zone of Limerick for the last five years. So that’s why I decided to quit my job and run for this office because I know just how much of an impact the role of Mayor can have on all of our lives.

Vig: Fantastic. And it’s not like you’re going for a “job job”. It’s a massive podium you’ll be on. So from me and my crew here in Castleconnell, we want to thank you for running. I’ve been watching you on your campaign trail and, judging by the pools,  you are very close to winning the election, I think. And all the energy and drive you have is an inspiration for me – running my own business. Watching you go, I’m thinking – how does she do that?

Dee: Listen, I have great people around me, I can tell you I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the people who help me. Fantastic people from my own family to school friends to college friends to people I’ve come across in business to moms – in my kids’ schools, who just get stuck in – and it’s really energising. Surprisingly – and this is kind of paradoxical, because if you’d said this to me I wouldn’t have understood it until I actually went and did it – being out every day, doing 14-hour days that consist of meeting people and talking to people. I’ve gone to as many doors as possible to shake as many hands as possible. It’s actually really energising.

Photo by Oisin McHugh True Media for Love Limerick

Vig: Yeah, absolutely. The energy just keeps increasing the more you focus on it and the more people get involved. And yes, we’d like to see you win, we want you as our Mayor. 

It takes a village, doesn’t it? So can you tell me a bit about what it was like growing up in Castleconnell?

Dee: Oh, I loved it. So I grew up in Castleconnell. My parents moved to Castleconnell in… I think 1979/1980. Lesley Hartigan and Jim Hartigan, two well-known families in the village, were building a small cul de sac of homes in Oak Lane. They were literally building them themselves. And my parents came across them.

My mom, Valerie Corbett, had been teaching in Rosary Hill. That’s what the hotel was — a convent and a secondary school — before it became Castle Oaks Hotel, so yeah, that’s where my mom was teaching. She was young, in her 20s and drove in and out of Castleconnell daily. She dropped me, when I was a baby, to Mrs. Hassett on the backroads to Lisnagry. Years later, coincidentally, I ended up really good friends with her granddaughter, Sue Hassett who’s got The Grove Veggie Kitchen in Limerick City. Sue, obviously used to be at her grandmother’s as a child herself. So yes, that’s where I was when Mom went down the road to teach. 

Mom and Dad kind of fell in love with the village in the late 70s. It was a much more rural village then than it is today. And they were keeping their eyes peeled for an opportunity to come up to buy a home and that’s how they came across Leslie and Jim building their dormer bungalows. And funnily — they were living in Castletroy at the time — and told their neighbours about Lesley and Jim’s houses. So our neighbours also moved with us to Castleconnell. That’s Gerry and Mary O’Neil. We’ve actually moved with them three times in my life. 

Gerry was from the Main Street in the village originally and very involved in rowing – so they were delighted to move back. They have Bridge Engineering Services in Gooig that employs a lot of people from around the village. Gerry got my dad involved in the boat club. 

I went to school across the fields and did all my primary schooling there. I loved it. We had amazing teachers.

Vig: That’s Castleconnell National School, is it?

Dee: Yeah, and we learned to swim at the Footbridge! Nowadays, my kids and primary school kids go to UL or one of the other swimming pools for their swim lessons. While, in the 80s in Castleconnell, we brought our togs and our towels, and walked down to the Footbridge. We had qualified swim instructors and we all had to get in the river. So yeah, swimming lessons from the bank of the river in the cold freezing cold water.

Dee Ryan on the Campaign Trail for First Directly Elected Mayor for Limerick. Picture Brendan Gleeson

Vig: That’s a great story, Dee. I’ve never swum down by the Footbridge, instead, I go to the World’s End where the boat club is. Did you say your dad was involved in starting the boat club?

Dee: Yes. So the boat club was founded in the early 80s. And my dad, Brian Corbett, was one of the founders. He was an accountant. And accountants have a tendency to get roped into being involved in committees if they’re that way inclined, to help out and act as treasurer. So yeah, we live next door to the O’Neil’s. Gerry was a passionate community person, a passionate oarsmen. My dad and he were best of pals. And Gerry said, ‘Come on Corb, you’ll give us a hand with this now.’ So my dad got involved, and was very involved all through his life, really involved in the boat club. He was president at one point. Both my brothers, Cathal and Ruairi rowed.

“ My mother and a lot of the artists and the artist’s community from around the village would have been doing auctions of their work to raise money for the club. It really has been a grassroots movement for the last 40 years or whatever it is. So yeah, our childhood was very intertwined with the boat club.”

Vig: The river is coming through as a major player here, isn’t it?

Dee: It’s so beautiful, isn’t it? We’re so blessed to live near it and be able, to walk alongside it. I mean, I remind my kids – over the last few years, when I’ve, unfortunately, been driving them to secondary school, they’re on the school bus now, thank God. In the mornings drive them, I’d been saying, ‘Now lads, just look at that. Look at that.’ We’ll be watching the sunrise and the mist of the fog rise over the Shannon. ‘In ten years time, you might be living in London, or you might be living in Dublin and you won’t see this. You need to remember how beautiful this is. We’re very lucky. We’re very privileged to live in this part of the world and to have this beauty around us.’ So yeah, I appreciate it. I hope they do too. Or if they don’t know they will at some point too.

Vig: Yeah, we had visitors here a couple of weekends ago from Scotland. A choir who came over to visit our choir The Rolling Tones Rock Choir which Kerry Hurley conducts. We had an absolute ball! And the Scots were gobsmacked, as we say.  They stayed in the Castle Oaks and walked along the river to and from the Village, and all they could say was ‘Oh my god, it is so beautiful here.’ So the guys are from Edinburgh. You know, The Granite City, isn’t it? So they were like, ‘Oh, my God is so green!’ Yes, I think we have something to be very proud of, right?

Dee: We do! And you know, back in the 80s lots of the people, you know from The Rolling Tones, and other people you meet through different community groups, were the people I grew up with. The same stalwarts, really good community people. Like George Lee in the village.

It was his dad who served us when we were kids. Going down with our 10p to see what we could buy. And the same fabulous selection of very affordable jellies at the front – by the till. You’ll still find a great selection there today as well. And then Tony McDermott, our fabulous butcher. I remember Tony’s dad well. It’s lovely for me to still have those connections in the village and to know them. In fact, I think the same is true for anyone, and you might tell us, what you feel about this Vig. I know, my brother-in-law, who is from England, they’ve moved to Castleconnell, and he just loves that you know your butcher, you know their name, you know the hairdresser. You know the pharmacists. You know those really personal connections you have with the coffee shops and the pubs, and you know everyone. Which makes living here really personal. Something you might not have in bigger communities.

Vig: Absolutely. We’re just back from seven and a half years abroad, you know, big cities, Athens, Cairo. And I come home to Castleconnell and I go like, Oh, yes! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

I don’t even want to go on holiday. I’m back home now. I’m fine. I take walks down to the river whenever I want. Yeah, it’s an absolutely fantastic community. Our only problem is that we can’t just ‘nip down to the shop,’ because that could take a couple of hours depending on who you meet. When I came back I got involved with Love Castleconnell and Castleconnell Action Network (CAN). I think you were involved in the very beginning of both these community groups. Were you?

Dee: Yeah, I was. I think it was Tara Hartigan and Nicky McNamara who started getting active on a project. They pulled a few other people together, who they noticed were also interested. So myself, Donal Ryan, Eamonn McQuade and others started meeting regularly to see what we could do, to help animate the village, because we all love Castleconnell. And we want to help everybody who lives here enjoy it a little bit more. What could we do as a community people to throw our shoulders to the wheel? So Love Castleconnell has arranged some fabulous events over the years, from concerts in Stradbally Church to Village Feasts to celebration of the railway station. Some fantastic events that Tara, Nicky and the gang have been involved in pulling together and running. And that’s evolved into Castleconnell Action Network, which aims to link all the different groups, clubs and organisations across the village, together.

We have so many fabulous organisations and we want to coordinate information better amongst everybody so people know what other groups are doing. So we can support each other more and get behind each other’s initiatives. CAN is the communications piece, more than anything else, and it is still going strong, with Donal Ryan at the helm. They’re doing a fantastic job. So yeah, I got involved in both of those right before I took on my role in Limerick Chamber, and over the first few years of my time in Limerick Chamber, it’s been fantastic.

Vig: We’ve spoken about Castleconnell and how fantastic it is, now I want to steer you onto where we can improve. Last week marked ten years since the Worralls Inn burned down. The way it sits at the moment, right across from our Parish Hall – the Parish Hall Committee is working hard to get back up and running properly again, after Covid. But the Worralls Inn looks really sad, and it would be lovely to have this listed building as a community house — like the Shannon Inn that the ACM managed to purchase. What would you like to see happen with the Worralls Inn and I don’t mean only what you can do as the Mayor of Limerick, but what your dream look like?

Dee: I know, and unfortunately, the Worralls Inn building in its initial state of disrepair and now in its, mid-construction phase has not given to the village Main Street, what it should do – in my view. I’m very conscious of not just the Parish Hall Committee who are very active, as you say, but our TidyTowns group who makes a huge effort to make our main streets and Castle Street look as attractive as possible. The volunteers who put their heart and soul into giving back to the community, really deserve better. 

So I think it’s essential that building owners on the Main Street — and I won’t single out the Worralls Inn, because it’s not the only building — should be supported and assisted to bring their buildings back into productive use. We are in the middle of a housing crisis, so there’s a huge demand for housing. And certainly having more people living on Main Street would benefit the animation of the street, and also bring safety to the street. But there are other things that we could use buildings on our main street for. We definitely need to work with the ACM to help support them with their digital hub. John McNamara — at the last community meeting that we had in the Parish Hall a couple of weeks ago, to discuss the next iteration of our community plan — spoke about how he’d like to see our digital hub facilities improved.

I think the community knows what it needs, be it childcare, social or business facilities, housing, or more retail. The community knows what it needs. But ultimately we have to support the building owners to get their buildings back into productive use. This has to take both a carrot and a stick approach. It is not an issue unique to Castleconnell. This erosion – a remnant of the last recession really – is happening, unfortunately, in the main streets in our villages right across our county. Our main streets have not recovered in the same way as our economy recovered. I guess, for a lot of reasons, but primarily from the difference in how we shop and work. Regardless, we’re in this transition phase and there is demand for these buildings to be brought back into productive use. Certainly, if I’m elected as Mayor, it’s very firmly on my agenda to ensure that we’re engaging with those building owners and helping and supporting them to get those buildings back into use.

Vig: Yeah, we really want a much more vibrant high street that is more in use, especially for our very young ones, mums with their new babies, and our elders.

Dee: Absolutely. And there are lots of great people around the village who would love access to some of these spaces. And there are lots of great businesses around the village who would love access to some of these spaces. So I fully understand what you’re saying Vig, this is coming up right around the county, and I see it myself and I feel it myself. I mean, I would be so strong as to say that those neglected, dishevelled buildings are visual litterings on our main streets and that impacts all of our lives, not just on the person living next door, though, obviously it impacts people who are living next door to them, much more. But I don’t think it’s fair on communities that this is allowed to fester and go on. We’ve been living with this for a long time. In some cases, there are genuine reasons why the buildings haven’t been brought back into use and we certainly want to support those individuals. Someone might have passed away, some might be in nursing homes. You know, there are very valid reasons in many instances as to why these buildings aren’t occupied. So we need to engage with the building owners and see what can we do to support them. And where there is no valid reason as to why the building isn’t back in productive use, we have to enforce the derelict and vacant sites with legislation, which is something Limerick City and County Council is mandated to do. So, that will be my approach.

Vig: This is heartwarming to hear Dee, and if you didn’t already have my vote, your views and plans on the issues with our Main Street would definitely swing my vote. This is why I hope everyone listening, who can, will vote for you because things will change for the better with you as our Mayor. Could I also ask you — as you so eloquently put it — the neglected, dishevelled buildings are visual litter on our main streets that impact all of our lives – how do you think it impacts antisocial behaviour?

Dee: The key to revitalising our village in Castleconnell, and in our county villages and small towns across Limerick, is to put a very concerted focus on those main street spaces. We have to improve our public realm. We have to put investment into widening our footpaths, making sure we have spaces for people of all ages to take a break, have a seat – you know – make sure our villages are accessible for all generations of people living in our community. 

Hand in hand with that, I’m working with Chief Superintendent Derek Smart at Henry Street, for increased visibility of Gardaí in our villages. People feel safe when they see a greater presence. We have great Gardaí working in the village, we just don’t have them there as long as we’d like. So we need to see more of them. 

Chief Superintendent Derek Smart and I are both lobbying the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, for permission to release the sixteen Gardaí on security duty in Mulgrave Street courthouse, in Limerick City, back to Superintendent Smart. In Dublin, the courthouse security duty function is performed by private security firms. Superintendent Smart has also alerted me to a further six of his qualified Gardaí performing desk functions at Henry Street. Again, this is performed by civilians in other parts of the country, so he’s looking for sanctions to move them back into community policing. If we got those sixteen and six — that’s twenty-four — it’ll bring us close to the thirty extra Gardaí Chief Superintendent Smart says he needs for us to feel the benefit of more visible community policing. 

We have about 556 Gardaí across the whole county and, he says, an additional thirty would allow him to roster more officers to street patrolling. So look, that’s the goal. And if I get elected, I am committed to working with him to get him at least the thirty Gardaí he needs and to fight for a greater allocation from upcoming graduations of new Gardaí, from Templemore, into Limerick. It’s something we’re feeling in our village, but we’re not alone. This is happening in every village across the county. There is a sense of antisocial behaviour becoming more prominent, and people feel intimidated by that. So look, if we can get more visible community policing with the Gardaí. The Gardaí are great at handling the issues felt by our younger youth ages, they know they need to talk to the kids and their parents. Here’s another quote from her Key Note.

“And you know, we need to coax and manage kids through that difficult phase and ensure they stay on the right path and don’t veer down the road of criminality. Certainly, if we had more Gardaí present in the village, engaging with the community, I’d be confident we could do better.”

Dee Ryan

Vig: What about social workers? Because, as you know, some antisocial behaviours are by children under the age of twelve.

Dee: Yes, you’re right, Vig. And, we don’t want to criminalise these kids in their own minds at the age of 12. We need to support them to address the challenges they’re experiencing in their home lives — if that’s what’s going on — and show them there’s a more productive way to use their energy. Then get them involved in youth diversion programs or sports clubs. We need to engage with the kids in a non-stigmatising way to ensure they come through what, for most people, is a rocky patch in their early teens, and ensure we keep them on the straight and narrow. Get them back engaging in a healthy way within our village and community. This can be done, and yes, social workers are part of the mix, and equally, our precious volunteers in our sporting groups, soccer and rowing clubs, and all the different clubs and youth groups. I know Roisin Hartigan and others are involved in trying to get the youth group in the village going again. We have to support these different community groups, because that is the village, and we have to ensure that they’re getting the funding they need.

They’re giving their time, energy and passion to our young people and our village. We have to support them in whatever way we can. I have announced that I’m using part of my Mayoral budget for what I’m calling a people and communities fund. So if I’m elected, I’ll be coming back to the villages to ask what you need and how can I help.

It is those individuals, those groups, those clubs that make up the fabric of our society, and they’re what makes life in the village as enjoyable as it is.

Vig: Yes, that’s so true, and it would be lovely — if we could find a way — for young and old to work together. I think there is a missing link with the mentorships we used to have from our grandparents.

Dee: Yeah, that’s a great idea for generations to work together for everybody’s benefit.

Vig: Dee, I know you are running a really busy campaign, and you need to get back to it. But before you go, would you please tell me, how are you running this? I mean, there must be a massive team behind you.

Dee: I’ve got huge support from loads of friends and family. And there’s a core group of about 10 people who have – kind of – given up their lives and come on this journey with me. Actually, I wouldn’t say come on the journey, they’ve led the way for me in many ways. Some people have experience in running campaigns previously, but I don’t. I’ve never stood for election before. Others have great experience in marketing, in digital marketing and so on. So look, we’ve pooled all of our skills and said, ‘Right, how do we do this? And what else needs to be done?’ And it’s been absolutely hugely enjoyable. And I don’t know how I’m ever going to be able to say thank you.

Vig: You know what, you can win! That would be a great thank you. A fantastic thank you. Because, of course, you know, I want you to win. It will be a win for Castleconnell. I think you’re by far the best candidate, and you are getting right up there in the polls. This looks like it can very easily happen. So I hope everybody here in Castleconnell will join me to vote for you as our number one. But if you don’t win this election, what’s on the cards for you next?

Dee: I actually don’t know. And you know what, we’re only a few days from polling, so I’m not going to think about it until after they’ve finished counting the ballots. We’ve been so focused on this. And look, if I have to think about it, I will, but I’m hoping that I’ll be walking straight into another five years of very busy and long days of really rewarding and productive work. And that’s where my focus is. 

So thanks so much for talking with me. For your support. And yeah, I’d love it if people came out for me now on Friday the seventh and gave me their number one.

Vig: Yes. So let’s all vote number one for Dee Ryan on Friday! Dee, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule. I will see you in Castleconnell over the next few days for the final push of canvassing and … Dee: Thanks Vig, I really appreciated it, you’re brilliant.

Vig: Thank you, Dee. Bye!

Dee: Thanks Vig, I really enjoyed that!  Bye!

That was Dee Ryan. And if you have a vote in Limerick, please make Dee your number one choice for Mayor of Limerick on Friday, the seventh of June. And let’s join together around this amazing woman because she will absolutely 100% for sure make a massive change for the better for all our lives in our communities.

For more information on all the people, community and sports groups Dee and I spoke about, visit You’ll find a wealth of information about our beautiful village, what you can do here as a visitor and everybody who does fantastic work here. Big thank you to … oh my god, I can’t mention everyone, so can I just shout – TidyTowns! Okay, that’s all for me for today. Now, go and vote on Friday, the seventh of June. Number one, Dee Ryan, for Mayor of Limerick.

You’ve been reading the transcript of my podcast interview with Dee Ryan. If this episode piqued your interest or stirred your fury, please get in touch. I am passionate about women’s stories from all over the world and would love to hear YOUR story. 

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