THE O’Connell Street Revitalisation Project was up for discussion, yet again, in County Hall this week. Hasn’t it only been the gift that keeps on giving over the last few years?
And as council management assured local representatives that they were now only two weeks out from completion of the greatest saga this city has ever known, a sequel was already being considered.
Members of the executive were in agreement with council members at this Monday’s meeting of the Metropolitan District that there were a couple of safety concerns with the multi-million euro cock-up.
They shrugged their shoulders nonchalantly that there would be “teething problems” and replied to many of the seething questions from councillors with “we’ll take that to the design team” — a great get out of jail card!
Not a Rice Krispie to be had
It was clear that Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely had eaten her Ready Brek before the morning meeting. She came gunning for council management and was taking no prisoners.
It appeared the executive, on the other hand, hadn’t had their Ready Brek. Not even a Rice Krispie.
Cllr Kiely came at them with plenty of snap, crackle, and pop, and the poor craturs didn’t know where to look. It was like watching rowdy children being scolded by mammy as she brandished the wooden spoon at them.
So peeved off of asking questions and getting nowhere she was, Cllr Kiely decided at this month’s Metropolitan meeting that she would go all out, Rambo-style, and pull the pin from the grenade altogether.
What followed was more fantastical and bewildering than anything I have ever witnessed at local authority level. It was like watching headless chickens and blind mice perform the Dance of the Seven Veils over hot coals after a belly full of sedatives.
It was all very awkward to observe but at the same time I couldn’t turn away. A more perversely transfixing experience I am likely to never see again.
Cllr Kiely pulled the pin on her little hand grenade and let the fragments of her well-timed bombshell sink into the skulls of those around her.
Bin the bus lanes
The City East representative put forward a motion for the bus lane in O’Connell Street to be removed and a two lane traffic management system to be reinstated, which put the cat with licked lips sitting bang slap in the middle of some well-fed looking pigeons.
Houston, Kiely hit out, we have a problem with O’Connell Street.
She was not at all happy that there was no longer a crossing point at Bedford Row onto Thomas Street.
When people are standing and waiting to cross, she said, they are standing on a cycle lane. The bus lane, she continued, is used as a car park and considered it to look more like a “parking plaza”.
“Pedestrian safety should be paramount, and it isn’t because of the blatant interference of the NTA (National Transport Authority). The same NTA who don’t have local knowledge or even local place names.”
At this stage the Ready Brek was only kicking in. The glow was only starting to appear around Cllr Kiely as she warmed up to the idea of a row with the executive.
She held her loaded revolver to their heads and suggested that she would be willing to withdraw her motion from the table if they committed to a crossing point being installed at Bedford Row.
Fair play to her, she knows her Die Hard films this one.
“It is only right that we allow the maximum amount of traffic to access our city for the sake of the retailers who have suffered losses because of this ongoing saga,” she added.
Supporting her motion, party colleague Cllr Dan McSweeney took the view that the 400- metre stretch of bus stop on O’Connell Street served no purpose other than to accommodate those in need of a quick pray or a super gravy. He also called for traffic lights to be installed in the cycle lanes.
A near miss at Supermac’s
There was lots of red lowered faces turning green, shoulder shrugging, and cool-as-a-breeze posturing in the shape of ‘nothing to see here’ reclining into backrests at the chamber’s top table.
It was a tough situation to read. Obviously we had a few card sharks in the room.
Councillors complained about the surface of the footpath and lumps of tar in areas of the ‘almost’ completed project. They reported falls left, right, and centre, with Cllr Michael Sheahan himself confessing to a near tumble outside Supermac’s.
Limerick City and County Council Executive Architect Seamus Hanrahan admitted that there was more disruption than he would have liked over the course of the O’Connell Street works. Cllr Kiely’s motion, he explained, would mean a whole new set of works and changes, which would have to go through the Part 8 planning process.
Cllr Kiely admitted she wasn’t serious about her motion and admitted it was proposed out of sheer frustration. If she got her pedestrian crossing, she negotiated, she would then withdraw her proposal.
Mr Hanrahan told her that there was manoeuvre room for a crossing and vowed to bring it back to the design team for further discussion.
One thing was strikingly clear.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.