Council Affairs: Panto performances in council meeting a shame to witness

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

AND the winner of ‘Best Panto Dame‘ at last week’s local authority meeting goes to Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien for his powerful performance as a highly affronted man of the people.

For all the huffing and puffing and stomping of feet, you would almost think that he had actually intended to sit through the full May meeting of Limerick City and County Council.

His fellow Adare-Rathkeale colleague Cllr Adam Teskey (FG) was equally impressive for all his bluster and scooped the prize for ‘Best Panto Dame in a Supporting Role‘ for his efforts as the plucky sidekick.

At last Monday’s meeting, Cllrs O’Brien and Teskey carried themselves like a pair of likely lads looking for an excuse to skip class and go smoking cigarettes out in the handball alleys.

Or maybe, the two rural West Limerick boys had silage to cut and that took precedence over local authority business. Whatever it was, they appeared to have little interest in participating in Council affairs.

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The meeting had barely started and Teskey had asked to speak on the Limerick water supply boil notice affecting 7,000 consumers in West Limerick.

But if it was that important to Cllr Teskey, standing orders would have allowed it added to the agenda as an emergency item — had he given the executive 24 hours’ notice. He could have had it included on the agenda the previous Friday had he wanted to.

Regardless of that, Mayor Francis Foley explained that a special meeting was arranged to take place by the end of the week, which really got knickers in a twist.

“Backroom meetings going on,” Cllr Teskey cried. “That’s crazy!”

Some of these bright sparks didn’t even want to know about the special meeting, and instead decided to focus on the notion that only Cllr Stephen Keary (FG) and Cllr Bridie Collins (FF) knew about it.

“There’s more than Bridie Collins in the district. That’s a disgrace. You should be ashamed,” he yelped at the mayor.

“Who’s chairing the meeting?” Mayor Foley hit back.

“We can’t even talk on the issue. It’s an absolute disgrace,” Cllr O’Brien bellowed.

“”Withdraw that immediately,” Mayor Foley insisted.

“We are leaving in protest,” Teskey squawked in defiance.

There really is no show like an Adare-Rathkeale Panto Special.

The thing is, if they’d stuck around a bit longer, Cllrs O’Brien and Teskey would have discovered that the mayor intended to allow time for this important issue to be discussed after they got through their hefty agenda.

But of course, at this stage, the two hard done by council members already had their 90 second clip on local radio and had gotten the most out of their little outburst.

After that, the evening was their own to get the silage in. And maybe when they were done with that, they should have sat down to consider a career in communications. They are obviously well versed in the dark arts and how to make headlines out of their tiny tin drums.

Playing to the gallery and hamming it up for the press is all well and good on a slow news day, but such heavy-handed dramatics mostly just reek of bad taste.

The full council only meet once a month. Surely if councillors were interested in fulfilling the mandate bestowed on them by the electorate, they would turn up and engage in a respectful and dignified manner.

Unfortunately, far too often these days, a small number of council members behave like boorish schoolboys at public meetings. It isn’t pretty and a real shame that they are allowed get away with it.

Fine Gael councillor Liam Galvin was far from impressed and jumped to the mayor’s defence when the chance arose later in the meeting. He described Cllr O’Brien’s conduct as “unforgivable” and took the view that he should not be allowed back into the council chamber again until he apologises.

“I ask my colleagues here to support that. What he did today was disgraceful,” he insisted.

When the agenda moved to any other business, councillors had every opportunity to discuss the issue of the boil water notice in West Limerick with the executive, and were informed about a special meeting organised on the matter.

Fianna Fáil councillor Bridie Collins, who the gruesome twosome took a pop at earlier in the meeting, told council members that she felt this issue was far too important to be used as a “political football”.

“We need Irish Water at this meeting as they need to be held account for the lack of service. This isn’t acceptable. We can roar and shout here and get all the headlines we want, but this is an issue that is affecting people and we need to make sure something happens,” she declared.

Cllr Keary was in full agreement with his Adare-Rathkeale colleague.

“People need to be safeguarded. Being told it is safe to have a shower if you boil the water first is hard to believe. It is hard to believe it is 2023 with this s**t going on,” he fumed.

Hard to believe this s**t is going on indeed.