Council Affairs: The smell of election in the air

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

I LOVE the smell of a local election. And its pungent aroma is already filling my nostrils, 14 months out from polling day!

No people, it’s definitely not the daffodils you’re getting a waft of, not at all. Stop and breathe it in. Get a good blast of it.

That is the scent of panic and desperation, mixed with the unmistakeable aroma of complete waffle. It’s already in the air, the stench of empty promises and false hopes.

The madness has begun, so let’s embrace it.

Local election fever has already taken grip of some of our elected representatives. Like bunnies in the headlights, you can see the blind trepidation in their eyes.

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It’s not a pretty sight, let me tell you. Councillors become crazed, irrational even, and when the finger comes out, they will damn near point it at anything for a photo opportunity.

A number of councillors have had an awful dose of election fever for a number of weeks already now. Their fevered temperature is off the charts. They look half crazed and petrified, and why wouldn’t they? Shur some of them have been marked absent over the current term of Limerick City and County Council.

When councillors reach a point where they no longer want to address the issues that matter, issues which could hurt them at the polls, instead only wanting to speak with the media when they are welcoming the opening of another crisp packet, it has well and truly begun.

There is nothing surer, the race for the 2024 Local Elections has councillors sprung out of their traps.

This was most obvious at the recent Metropolitan District meeting in County Hall — one of the biggest catastrophes of recent times, with a total dog’s dinner made of the South Circular Road Active Travel Scheme.

But forget about the real issues, it’s election season, and while it is always great to see local communities get funding for much-needed amenities, the opportunity for fanfare was not to be missed by council members. It never is.

The trick of course is to get your spoke in early so it looks like you are the only pothole politician who had any hand in securing said funding. That should win you a few extra votes, right?

What kind of daws do they think we are at all?

It was almost tragic to see councillors moon over funding of €100,000 for Mungret St Pauls GAA Community Centre in the Dooradoyle chambers. Well deserved, you’ll get no argument there, but even members of the public who came to view the meeting commented on it afterwards. Most of us in attendance felt like gooseberries, trying to avert our gaze as the coquettish exhibit of smugness unfurled.

Looking on were people losing sleep over proposals for the South Circular Road, residents and business owners who were floored by the repetitious sweet-talking from numerous councillors as they patted themselves on the back while taking credit for the funding.

“Is this how they always behave?” one stunned lady asked after the meeting.

Credit where credit is due, but when politicians have nothing more to do than welcome this or that while taking a lap of honour… Well, self praise, as they say, is no praise.

Maybe some of our local councillors, who are already starting to lose the run of themselves with election fever, should take stock. The public aren’t that gullible, and they very easily see through an electioneering ruse.

I haven’t seen this level of excitement from some of our local representatives since the days of Limerick mayors running around like headless chickens in total distress that they wouldn’t get a Mickey Mouse statute erected with their name on it before the end of their mayoralty.

Relax lads, the local elections are still 14 months away. There is plenty of time yet for pointing at potholes before then welcoming the filling in of said pothole thanks to your spectacular endeavours.

It will all work out in the mix. Take plenty of deep breaths, meditate, pray, take a Xanax, go for a run, but for the love of God get that fever down.

In a more sombre note, I was very sad to learn this week that Cllr Kevin Sheahan, Fianna Fáil’s finest panto dame — oh no he isn’t — has decided to bow out of local politics after this five-year term.

The longest serving council member in Limerick, Kevin would have made a fine entertainer for his larger than life stage presence. One thing is for sure, the monthly meetings of Limerick City and County Council will never be the same without his Shakespearean high jinks. Enjoy your retirement, you auld rogue!