Council Affairs: Hot air in abundance at Limerick City and County Council

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Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

POLITICIANS, they say, are full of hot air. Now, I’m no scientist, but I can’t help but wonder – how do you draw all that warm wind out of these poorly ventilated policy makers prone to amateur theatrics and grandstanding gestures and turn it into something productive and useful? Something resembling a functional local government?

That’s the question that Limerick City and County Council are currently trying to figure out.

How do you actually stop councillors from spouting hot air and talking out of their backsides when it comes to hosting a productive meeting to benefit the people of Limerick? Is it even possible at all?

Isn’t the very concept an oxymoron?

Council staff and management are withered from the old guff that they have to listen to regurgitated over and over. Precious hours are wasted as well-fed local representatives repeat the same thing ad nauseam as the last 20 speakers – often about the same bloody pothole.

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I mean, have they no homes to go to?

Some of them, I think, are just lonely.

Many councillors are at their wits’ end from the bunkum that pours out of some of their colleagues. In fairness to them, there aren’t scones, junkets, or expenses enough to make you want sit through it. Believe me.

Would someone not think of the poor craturs in the Limerick Leader? Their melt is broken from it!

“In a world where time is the new currency, it’s about time our councillors watched the clock, established more discipline, and placed more value on time – our most valuable commodity,” a recent  editorial read after a five-hour hot air fest at County Hall.

And do you think councillors took any heed? If anything, they upped the ante since the Leader took a pop at them!

There was enough air blowing at last Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the Adare-Rathkeale Municipal District to give the brave Pat Lawless the gust of wind he needs circumnavigating the globe in his yacht – and, let me tell you, that’s quite a thing.

There were nine items on the agenda and, if business was conducted as it usually is in some other nameless municipal districts, the 9.30am meeting would have ended by 11.30am and the lot would have been off for an early lunch.

But no, sir.

Item number one was to agree the minutes of the last meeting, which was proposed and seconded in a flash.

Off to a flying start…

… A flying start into a brick bloody wall.

An opportunity was quickly spotted to go off on a tangent, and – never ones to miss an opportunity – as fast as you could say ‘filibuster’, they were off down the rabbit hole ranting about bus shelters for the next 30 minutes.

Realising they had wandered off aimlessly on the very important issue, Fine Gael councillor Adam Teskey pipes up that “we really do need to find a way to make these meetings more efficient”.

Short concise sentences perhaps?

By 12.15pm, with only four items covered, eyes lit up as two trays of sandwiches and a selection of biscuits were wheeled in for the halftime break.

With another meeting due to start at 12.30pm, one more item was quickly and rather conveniently resolved before deciding to carry the rest of the agenda over until next month.

I’ve already booked my front-row seat. A penance for some past-life sins.

Earlier this month at the Newcastle West district meeting, ‘streamlining’ was the buzzword.

Folks, take this one on credit, I’ve heard that word bounced around more often than a volleyball in a hungover PE teacher’s gym hall.

When close to tears and fearing they might not see their loved ones for days, it has often been suggested to me by council staff that if I feck off out of it so that councillors, in fine voice, might feck off out of it too.

Honestly, I don’t think that would stop them.

Sure they love to roll over and put on a show for the press. But, once they are wound up on any given old thing, there’s no stopping them until they’re all out of steam.

Look at me, I’m off on a tangent now too. It’s contagious.

At last week’s Newcastle West area meeting, councillors went off on one over some housekeeping issues aimed at preventing councillors from going off on one.

Out of interest, I contacted the Writers Guild of Ireland and they confirmed that, no, you just couldn’t write it if you tried.

Fine Gael councillor Liam Galvin asked that standing orders be suspended so that questions on the agenda could be discussed.

Cllr Galvin – who had a number of questions on the agenda – was quickly informed that questions are taken as read at Council meetings.

“We’ve already had a discussion on this at a previous meeting – a meeting which you left – so spending any more time on it is counterproductive,” Cathaoirleach of Newcastle West District Cllr Michael Collins (FF) replied.

Cllr Collins took the view that opening the floor up to debate something that members of the executive and their staff cannot answer on the hop wastes time, serves little purpose, and invariably ends up in council members often “going off track”.

After a short delay to the meeting, Cllr Galvin hit back at Collins that discussing replies to councillors’ questions would not delay the meeting.

Two things are sure here.

One: life is short.

Two: council meetings are definitely in need of streamlining.

There used to be a three-minute talk-time rule in place before Covid. Maybe this is something Limerick City and County Council should look at again? (Note: This is something Limerick City and County Council should look at again.)

Councillors, when directed and focused, work powerfully well together for the communities they serve, but, in the words of the King (the Memphis one, mind): “A little less conversation, a little more action, please”.