Council Affairs: Crooning at Christmas… Council edition?

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Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

NOW that the Late Late Toy Show is put to bed, the festive season has finally hit us with all the welcome grace of a mackerel wrapped in tinsel to the face.

While the nation’s favourite panto dame was dancing about in his Christmas jumpers on RTÉ to the nation’s delight last Friday, the warblers of Limerick City and County Council were donning their party hats and launching into a performance of their own.

And you know well now, when you get council members crooning at the executive from the hit parade that you’re in for a real fun time.

In fairness, what better way to put a bit of perspective on things and reinject some of that loving feeling into the chamber than a Taylor Swift tune.

And not just any of the US pop sensation’s hits, mind – the number one feckin’ tune in Ireland at present.

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And I know it’s long gone and that magic’s not here no more, and I might be okay, but I’m not fine at all.

These were the lyrics crowed by Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan at the monthly Metropolitan District meeting. No, I’m not joking.

Naturally the delivery was not of the same calibre as the chart-topping pop princess of our headphones and heartstrings, but the Labour lad gave it the old college try.

I suppose when all else fails and agreement can’t be found at local government level, there’s worse you could do than blast out a few bars of Taylor Swift.

I don’t know if Cllr Sheehan takes requests, but, if he’s reading, he might do few bars of Seven Drunken Nights at the December meeting?

All told, it was an astonishing moment that grabbed the room and made councillors and management sit back and take stock. A bit of reality was clearly needed, and nothing is going to snap you into reality faster than a councillor singing Swiftie songs for the sake of a few cycle lanes let me tell you.

Three years into their term and the Metropolitan councillors were all befuddled over the difference between Section 38 and Part 8 planning applications – and more importantly, who is the boss of who.

That would be nobody, according to councillors. Nobody is the boss of them other than the clow– upstanding citizens who voted for them in the first place.

Nobody tells these good folks what to do and when John Kiely becomes Directly Elected Mayor, he will whip those backroom boys into shape, no question!

The executive, as far as councillors were concerned, could stick their Section 38s where a double decker buses can’t pass, and I don’t mean O’Connell Street.

Not only were councillors upset that the executive were trying to take their favourite toy – their Part 8 powers – away from them, they also lambasted the fact they have to contend with local TDs jumping all over Active Travel projects like a… well, like a politican at a photo call.

Green Party councillor Saša Novak took the view that the focus with planning applications needed to be on community engagement. Cllr Sheehan, from the Department of Karaoke,  took the view that “it’s all gone a bit mad”. He felt that the Dáil boys should back the hell off and stop stealing councillors’ thunder.

Fianna Fáil councillor Catherine Slattery was having none of it. She pointed out that while councillors represent a certain area of the city, TDs were the big kahunas, representing the entire city.

At this point, the pre-Christmas really turned saucy under the mistletoe.

“Like cats in heat,” Cllr Sheehan suggested some councillors were, with local elections only 18 months away.

Were Sheehan to be believed, before we know it we won’t be able to move for feral vote forragers hissing for a seat, marking their territory on lampposts all across Limerick and pointing at potholes with an air of absolute bewilderment.

Thankfully, Fianna Fáil councillor and publican James Collins was at hand to talk some sense to the rowdy feline revellers who wouldn’t know a Section 38 planning application if it bit them on the tail.

And he didn’t have to burst into Fairytale of New York or Silent Night to make his point either.

“We are just looking for clarification of the criteria for when Section 38 or Part 8 applies,” he told the executive, matter of factly, albeit a little off key.

The answer was not to council members liking – it rarely ever is – but sometimes you just have to remember that the hater’s gone hate hate hate hate hate.

My advice? Shake it off, shake it off.