Council Affairs: The year that was… 2022

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

AS ONE year comes to an end and we prepare to open a page on a new chapter, there’s no better time to stop and reflect on the year that’s just been.

Our local representatives out in County Hall certainly gave us plenty to consider during 2022 as they went about their endeavours with gusto.

From the off, the story that was making the headlines back in January was the same one that was still getting under people’s skin as the year neared its end — the O’Connell Street Revitalisation Project.

In the pages of the Limerick Post, as far back as January 31 this year, councillors were up in arms over delays and stoppages of works in the city centre. Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan feared that St Patrick’s Day would be a disaster if works weren’t completed on time.

Little did he know then, but it probably came as no surprise all the same, that the conversation would still be on people’s lips at year’s end.

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Back in January, Sheehan’s Labour colleague Joe Leddin also called for the €9million redesign and upgrade of O’Connell Street to be progressed at a faster pace to ensure completion within agreed timelines. Leddin even raised concerns that the works appeared to be slower since the New Year (which New Year?).

But, nearly a year on and with progress moving slower than molasses, a solution, of sorts, was on the table before Santa made his return to the Treaty City.

A month before Christmas in 2022, the works were not finished but suspended after consultation with local traders just so the holiday season could be saved.

Won’t someone please think of Tiny Tim!

Look, thankfully, the remainder of the revitalisation project, which reconvenes on January 3, largely consists of works to the junctions and the installation of street furniture.

So surely, it can’t take much longer now.

Can it?

In another Shakespearean twist to the tale last month, a two-way bus corridor was nonchalantly mentioned to councillors at a special meeting in Dooradoyle.

Councillors were informed that the National Transport Authority (NTA) were looking at Raheen into the city centre as a two-way bus lane – a proposal now included in the recently published Limerick-Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS).

The O’Connell Street debacle, Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely suggested, “is the story that keeps on giving”.

“There has been so much negativity around O’Connell Street and now you are throwing this into the works,” she cried in utter despair.

And there could certainly be a few more chapters yet in this War and Peace-like tome before they’re done!

Information, they say, is power. But the lack of it this year was like a red rag to a bull in Limerick City and County Council chambers on a number of occasions.

City East representative Kiely also had her back up last month over having to get her information about what’s going down at City Hall from the local media.

Well, that is what we are here for Sarah – and us a free newspaper with the bare-faced cheek to charge people online to read our premium content and all.

Cllr Kiely was very critical of the council executive for not first notifying local representatives regarding plans to assemble a team to transform the Arthur’s Quay area of the city. She pointed out that she had to hear the news not from Council Chief Executive Officer Pat Daly but from Joe Nash on his morning show on Live 95.

Cllr Dan McSweeney (FG) was equally critical of the Council.

“If that is the respect and value you put on elected members, then I question where we are going,” he snarled.

They are hard to please this lot. There’s always something with them.

Back in May they were huffing and puffing over chimney stacks.

Green Party councillor Sean Hartigan was far from impressed by a motion from my auld pal Cllr Stephen Keary when he requested that all new houses include the installation of chimneys.

Cllr Keary’s recommendation called for the local authority to write to the Minister for Housing requesting that the building regulations be amended to ensure that all new houses would include the installation of a chimney stack. Cllr Hartigan, on the other hand, was of the view that he should blow it out his arse.

Actually, earlier in July, Cllr Keary and his colleagues in the Adare-Rathkeale district appeared to do just that when they lit up at County Hall over ‘operational issues’.

Cllr Keary claimed the area representatives were “hamstrung” by being precluded from sending letters to central government on particular issues by the council executive.

Fianna Fáil councillor warned the local authority that they would not be “muzzled”.

“The executive are supposed to work with us and recognise that we are the policy makers. They are here to guide us,” he suggested.

Guide them, the executive should, or perhaps muzzle them would be a better option. Jesus wept, could ye not do something with them!

The people’s republic of Adare-Rathkeale and their breakaway junta had the Limerick Post and their new boy, yours truly here, within their sights after my first Council Affairs column was published on these pages.

“If you are prepared to write this stuff, you are not welcome at our next meeting,” judge, jury, and executioner Keary told our reporter Alan Jacques at an area meeting. Issue was taken with my column after I wrote about the area representatives only managing to get through half of the nine items on their agenda during a three-hour snooze-fest.

Standing orders went out the window as he addressed our reporter at the open-to-the-public forum and wanted to know if I was swinging from the ceiling at the previous meeting. I still owe Alan a pint for taking that hit, now that I think of it.

When they weren’t giving out about Irish Water, Westfield Wetlands, the Residential Zoned Land Tax, the Council management, or my good self, in fairness to them, they served their communities to the best of their abilities, or so I am told.

Seriously though, I love them really. It’s a tough old station they have and I look forward to following their madcap adventures in 2023.