There once was a very small city


Reuters, 4/18/06



DUBLIN (Reuters) - An exodus of rugby fans from Limerick in Ireland threatens its status as a city, and the European funding that goes with it, when a population census is taken Sunday.


Diarmuid Scully, mayor of Limerick in western Ireland, told Reuters as many as 20,000 fans could follow the regional team Munster to Dublin Sunday for the Heineken Cup semi-final against Leinster.


Many could stay on to celebrate -- or to drown their sorrows -- knocking Limerick's population of 54,000 below a crucial threshold of 50,000, he added.


"At the time April 23 was picked, it probably seemed like a quiet night," he told Reuters. "Unfortunately for Limerick people, quite a lot of us won't be at home that night. Quite a number would stay on to celebrate if it's a Munster victory."


Scully called on Limerick rugby fans to return home after the match.


"Should the population drop below 50,000, then Limerick wouldn't be considered a city anymore by European standards, and we'd actually lose out in terms of European funding," he added.


Scully said census rules allowed forms to be completed on the following Monday morning, and he called on census officials to be lenient.


"I'm asking for a flexible interpretation of the morning -- let morning stretch throughout the day," he said. "Let it stretch until midnight."



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