Council Affairs: Democracy undermined in Adare-Rathkeale?

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

IN a free society it’s crucial that news media are allowed to carry out their vital democratic role in holding those in positions of power to account. This even applies to councillors in the Adare-Rathkeale Municipal District. Not that this matters one iota to certain elected members in the area.

Sometimes you’d think if it wasn’t for all the pointing at potholes and dreaming up fantastical schemes that will never come to fruition, they’d have little to be doing at all. Let alone giving out about their increasing impotence in local government.

Still, when it comes to having their hard work put in print, some of these folks are more than a little cautious when it comes to my few inches of a weekly giggle (keep your mind out of the gutter missus).

The irony of it is, this column, which seems to be a point of contention in the District, probably wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the rib-tickling tomfoolery and ‘Ballymagash’ japes in some of the Panto-like area meetings we see in our beloved county.

Didn’t they only go and put the idea in our heads to begin with. I mean, when they are continually handing it to us on a plate, it would be rude not to cast a cunning eye over some of the raw material obtained at these epic hoedowns.

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By rights we really should have started this weekly lampoonery after the great Gortadroma fiasco of 2015. But look, let’s let sleeping dogs lie. For now anyway.

It transpired that long-suffering Limerick Post reporter Alan Jacques was given his marching orders at an Adare-Rathkeale meeting last November, weeks after the first Council Affairs column appeared on these pages. Mistaken for my good self at that, and him with a face for radio.

He was told in no uncertain terms to head back off to the city and take his tripe with him.

Six months on and poor Jacques is still waiting for a written apology for the public flailing he received in the sleepy corner of our democratic State during the course of his duties. The cratur still isn’t right after the experience. Flashbacks he’s having.

But what in the Cadence Enviropower do we have here? Jacques only got mail from the Adare-Rathkeale Municipal District this week.

His long-awaited apology?

Not likely.

An invitation?

Yes, indeed. Though thankfully not for duelling pistols at dawn at the back of the Rathkeale office.

Wasn’t it only a formal invitation for Mr Jacques to head back out west to cover the wild shindigs of next month’s area meeting.

All is forgiven? Could it be a trap?

They could be planning on finishing off the job this time round after lulling the naive Jacques into a false sense of security. I wouldn’t put anything past them.

Will there be a posse waiting to cut our beloved but grumpy old hack off at the Askeaton pass in his trusted rust bucket?

Six months on from that dark and incisive morn, Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien proposed – with the support of Cllr Adam Teskey (FG) and Cllr John O’Donoghue (IND) – that the Limerick Post reporter be allowed back to meetings to do his job.

My own gut instinct tells me they’re looking for a patsy, someone who can be used in some type of Game of Thrones style plot. But I digress.

Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheahan sat on the fence and abstained from last week’s vote to invite the intrepid reporter back to the area meetings. Cllr Bridie Collins was marked absent, while my old segotia Cllr Stephen Keary – who initially intimated that Jacques was unwelcome in the District – voted against the move. No surprise there, of course.

You see, if they could be sure it is only Alan Jacques they are getting, and not that vexing Monsieur Mellor fella, there probably wouldn’t be a problem. You couldn’t be up to those pesky reporters and their split personalities.

But if you are going to dictate what members of the press can and cannot attend public meetings, you are heading down a real slippery slope.

If elected representatives try and control what the media can and can’t report on, we’re in dangerous territory.

Achtung Baby, indeed!

I mean lads, if that’s the road you want to go down, I suggest you  take Mel Brooks’ classic advice: “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty.”