Council Affairs: On the fence at 30km/h

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

A PROPOSAL for the introduction of a 30km/h speed limit for motor traffic in the city centre was on the agenda at County Hall in Dooradoyle last week.

Now, you don’t need me to tell you that the powers that be in Limerick City and County Council do not have the need – the need for speed. When it comes to how they like their cars on the roads (as well as the pace at which those roads are built), the local authority has one tempo and one tempo only – slow.

As for our local councillors, sure, they get revved up at times over one thing or another. They are contrary by nature and get hot under the bonnet, but even they aren’t at the races on this one.

All joking aside, the issue at hand was a serious one. There has been far too many road deaths on Irish roads in 2023, and this move, coming from a very good place, was brought to the table in the hope of saving lives.

Councillors were quick to show their support for the 30km/ h special speed limit, but even quicker to point out to council management that it isn’t the answer. Which makes sense. Right?

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The biggest challenge councillors had last Monday was to simultaneously sit on the fence and come out the right side of this debacle without opposing it  – a pure Machiavellian conundrum if ever there was one.

But in the same week as the last supermoon of 2023, Limerick councillors were making a whole lot of sense for once.

The High King of the Panto Dames, Cllr Kevin Sheahan, a man never to mince his words or miss an opportunity for amateur dramatics, was having none of it.

He was out of the starting blocks to remind those in attendance at the full monthly local authority soiree that he is the longest serving council member, having served a 39-year sentence. But while the Council were concocting schemes of not so fast and furious proportions, Cllr Sheahan wanted to pull the brakes their crackpot notions.

The Fianna Fáil man told the council executive that he wished to be disassociated from the whole affair. As far as he was concerned, they were looking at making at make a proper Mickey Mouse job out of it.

“Let’s be sensible and practical,” Cllr Sheahan bellowed. “We’ll soon have bicycles or scooters overtaking cars, which don’t seem to be governed by any legislation and that’s what we should be targeting today.”

“My heart goes out to any victim of any road accident any place, it’s a terrible tragedy. We have far too many people being killed on our roads and I acknowledge that, but this is not the solution.”

The Askeaton native will be sorely missed for his impassioned histrionics when he retires next June, but he is in top gear making sure his presence is felt in the meantime.

“This is misleading to suggest that we are great people today and that we are going to be instrumental in reducing deaths on the road, we are not, so I don’t want to be associated with the proposal. If there was enough support for me I’d oppose it,” he confessed.

There was clearly no appetite for opposing the new bye-laws, but it was clear that many were singing off Kevin’s hymn sheet while perched on top of the fence.

His fellow Adare-Rathkeale district comrade Cllr John O’Donoghue took the view that the new city speed limits will cause all sorts of (lo)commotion.

“Taxi drivers and bus drivers are going to have longer driving times and we are going to have more pollution. Our delivery drivers are going to be working longer working days to cross one side of the city to the other,” Cllr O’Donoghue predicted.

And marriage counsellors will have to work round the clock just to sort out the upset of lorry drivers arriving home to cold dinners and suspicious partners convinced there’s another lover in a truck-stop far away.

“I’m not sure this is the answer, but I am definitely not going to oppose it,” Cllr O’Donoghue boldly stated, putting his foot down.

“Changing the numbers on a pole isn’t the answer because people will not take notice of them,” Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon chimed in, full of his characteristic optimism.

Finding his gallop, Cllr O’Hanlon went on to point out to council management that all this latest scheme was going to do was cost a lot of filthy lucre to change all the signs.

“It’s an awful pity that the Government wouldn’t avail of the opportunity to run a few pilot programmes where they would put cameras into housing estates or city centre streets. Automatically people could be fined and I think that would be an altogether better way to actually slow down traffic,” he concluded.

Another fast and furious debate where impressive speed and agility was shown from our local council members. They’d put Penelope Pitstop and Dick Dastardly to shame so they would.