An independent candidate has made history by becoming Ireland’s first-ever directly elected mayor.

John Moran won the race to be Limerick’s first citizen, beating 14 other candidates to be elected in the landmark contest.

Independent candidate Helen O’Donnell came in second place, some 4,622 votes behind Mr Moran.

It is the first time Irish citizens have elected their local first citizen, in what is seen as a test case for the rest of the state.

John Moran beat 14 other candidates to be elected in the landmark contest, the first time Irish citizens have elected their local first citizen (Niall Carson/PA)

The mayor will take over a redesigned local government system, which will see many of the chief executive functions transferred over to the newly elected post.

The changes come following Limerick’s 2019 plebiscite.

“It’s an emotional day for everybody. Everybody knows we started this journey more than five years ago, in terms of getting a plebiscite to work,” Mr Moran said after his win.

“It was obvious to the people of Limerick then, as I think it is more obvious today, that there’s a system of government in Ireland that needs to change, to re-establish democracy.

“I think that it was amazing to see that this was a campaign – and I would say that about all the other candidates – that we picked up votes right across the county.

“I think the vision we all have for Limerick was the same and now it’s a case of just implementing that vision.

“It’s about bringing places together. It’s not about politics that only speaks to a small group of people or to a particular group in one area of a county or otherwise.

“I think we’ve done a brilliant job and I say fair play to Limerick. They came out in numbers to actually vote for this role.”

Ballots for John Moran are stacked (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Moran, who is a former secretary general in the Department of Finance and qualified solicitor, was elected after the 12th count following the elimination of Fianna Fail candidate Dee Ryan.

Earlier, Fine Gael’s Daniel Butler and Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan were eliminated from the race.

Surrounded by family members, Mr Moran hugged his partner, Damien Duggan, moments after he was successfully elected Limerick mayor.

His mother, Bridie Moran, wiped away tears as she proudly watched her son become part of the history books.

Count staff had also gathered in the room to watch as returning officer Caroline Curely confirmed the county’s new mayor.

Mr Moran continued: “(People) didn’t just vote on party lines and you could see that happening with the number of votes that were moving around.

“I think that spells a lot, not just for the future of Limerick, but frankly for the future of democracy.

“We can see across Europe at the moment that there are challenges to the democracy that we have and I think right here in Limerick we’ve shown how it can be done, and how the people can come together and develop a common vision for their future.

“The hard work starts now. We’ll have to start figuring out budgets. We’ll have to start figuring out all the money and there’s a lot of people asking for lots of things.”

The final vote comes after two days of counting at Limerick Racecourse.

Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan is eliminated from the count at Limerick Racecourse (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Moran received a total of 18,308 first preference votes in the first count and was followed in second place by Ms O’Donnell who received 12,903 votes.

None of the candidates reached the 39,873 quota.

Earlier, Ms Ryan said: “I am very proud of my husband, my friends and everyone who rode in and got involved. We had a ball and couldn’t have wished for a better campaign. I’m really encouraged by the fantastic welcome that I got from the people of Limerick.

“It was an honour to get out and meet people. Fair play to the independent candidates, they ran excellent campaigns.

“I’ve no doubt that Limerick will choose the right mayor. I look forward to getting behind and supporting the right mayor when they are announced. I am very proud.”

Mr Butler said he was disappointed not to win as he had “been in it to win it”.

“There was a lot against us. We came in very late, we came in in the middle of a change of leadership in the Fine Gael party and my director of elections lost his mother during it. Our house was threatened, and the safety of our family was threatened and compromised during the election,” he said.

“But we fought on and fought a very good campaign, and I think the vote that I got is reflective of the energy and innovation that I fought in the campaign.

“I fought a very high-calibre campaign and delivered a lot in a short period of time.”

Fianna Fails Dee Ryan thanked her family after being eliminated in an earlier round of votes (Niall Carson/PA)

Earlier, Mr Quinlivan thanked everybody who came out and voted for him.

“I really appreciate every single person who took the time to come out, but also, (I want) to thank those people who engaged in the mayoral campaign in the last number of weeks.

“I think it was a really positive campaign. One of the most positive campaigns we have been involved in.

“All the candidates did themselves good. So I want to wish whoever wins all the best for the role.

“It’s a really positive thing for Limerick, and they (the winner) will have my full support going forward if they do things that are positive and good and in the best interests of Limerick. If they don’t do that, I will be the first person to hold them to account.

“I want to thank those who campaigned with me and my family and my wife, who has been brilliant.”

A total of 15 candidates ran for the mayor’s seat.