Council Affairs: An bhfuil cead agam dul amach?

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

WELL, we knew the civility couldn’t last long out in County Hall. Councillors from the Metropolitan District were on their very best behaviour at their February meeting when the eyes and ears of the South Circular Road were tuned into their handling of the contentious Active Travel scheme proposed for the area.

They were nice as pie to one another. Well, as nice as you will get when they are playing by Queensbury rules, at least, which only happens when they have an audience.

But it was a different story last week, let me tell you, when city council members were left to their own devices and had no pesky busybodies earwigging on their conversation. Present earwig excepted.

There was no dotting the i’s or crossing the t’s, just toys out of the pram and full on hissy fits. It was glorious.

For those not in the know, it was sour grapes and toilet breaks that had the Metropolitan mob squabbling with one another.

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Clearly the poor craturs hadn’t been burped before their monthly pow-wow. They were crankier than usual.

Maybe it was just the jet-lag after the annual Stateside Paddy’s knees up?

I’ve said it before, the local authority meetings would make for great daytime television.

More colourful than Peppa Pig and twice as confounding. There wouldn’t be a child in the house washed if you were tuned into this of a wet Monday morn.

The thing is, I think the local councillors give their best performances when it is only the executive and the media they have to play to.

Whether it is stage fright or camera shyness, they don’t like their public (the voters) looking on.

I have a tip for ye though. The South Circular Road Active Travel Scheme isn’t going to be the only show in town for the next little while so make sandwiches, bring popcorn, and get out to the next Metropolitan District meeting. Just don’t let them know ye are there.

Cathaoirleach of the Metropolitan District, Cllr Olivia O’Sullivan, came under strong fire last week from across the Dooradoyle chamber over the minutes of February’s meeting.

Let me tell you, it’s not minutes they need now, it’s hours in the day.

The meeting had barely started and Labour councillor Joe Leddin was up calling for the record of the February meeting to be changed.

There was red faces aplenty as Cllr Leddin maintained that standing orders had been breached as an adjournment had not been given to examine the new Fine Gael proposed amendment to the South Circular Road Active Travel Scheme proposal.

This, he pointed out, despite a call for an adjournment being proposed and seconded from the council floor.

To add insult to injury, Fianna Fáil councillor James Collins, the only council member from his party to vote against the amended plans, was still flabbergasted that an adjournment then took place after the Part 8 was across the line.

Independent councillor Fergus Kilcoyne felt it looked “very bad” altogether.

They wanted answers. A month on, answers were still slow enough coming.

Some local representatives tried to figure out how they were too busy to take an adjournment to study amended plans they had not yet seen, but could afford to take 15 minutes after the item was passed?

Getting well hot under the collar, Cllr O’Sullivan lambasted council members for pushing her into a corner and leaving her with no choice but to put an end to the mystery and intrigue.

“It was for a bathroom break! Are you satisfied with the answer?” she gesticulated at Cllr Collins.

He wasn’t.

Fifteen minutes to use the loo but the same amount of time couldn’t be afforded to councillors to look at amended plans that will impact householders, schools, and businesses?

This Fine Gael lot were really taking the p*ss, altogether!

Former Mayor Cllr Daniel Butler hit out at the probing council members on the wings and made out it was nothing but “sour grapes”.

In fairness, when you got to go, you got to go. However, in all my years at council meetings, the Cathaoirleach would normally give the nod to one of their party members to take the hot seat when they need to go take the proverbial.

The Council’s meeting administrator assured council members at last week’s meeting that there was no breach of standing orders because, well, the buck stops with the Cathaoirleach of the District and ultimately it was her decision. And she had to go.