Council Affairs: Mudslinging already underway in Local Elections 2024

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

THE picking and poking and mudslinging is starting to get underway as Local Elections 2024 sees some jittery factions already losing the run of themselves — and we are still only in October.

Jaysus wept, wait until next March when they start pulling down each other’s posters only to put them back up again when the election race is all over. You have to love the pure mad as a box of frogs skullduggery of it all.

Personally, I love the smell of a local election in the morning.

Last week, Limerick Fine Gael Senator Maria Byrne decided to get her tuppence worth and have a pop at the Shinners to ruffle a few feathers locally and make a few headlines at the same time.

Senator Byrne is comfy out in her Seanad seat at present and her days on Limerick City and County Council are long behind her, but, according to the dogs on the street, she’s the blue-shirts top choice for Directly Elected Mayor.

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Maybe there’s no truth to it. Maybe it’s a smokescreen. But, then again, maybe Byrne will have a part to play yet in the next term of the local authority? Many within her own party seem to think so.

She certainly came out guns blazing last week and made her presence felt, which may or may not have been a “desperate attempt to be relevant”.

With Sinn Féin firmly in her sights, Senator Byrne hit out that the Irish Republican party are the bogeyman, warning that pensioners who worked all their lives will be up sh*te creek without a paddle if Mary Lou has her day.

Now, let’s not forget that last week Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party coalition put an extra €15 a week in the average workers’ pocket in Budget 2024, which, as one man wisely pointed out, wouldn’t buy a box of fags. And the way this country is gone, you’d be atin’ them if you could!

Yet Senator Byrne enthused that the Fine Gael Budget had a good income tax and USC package which rewards work and puts money back in people’s pockets.

The ordinary working Joe Soap, would beg to differ, I imagine, Maria.

She was totally confounded to hear that in the Opposition party’s alternative budget, Sinn Féin proposed to give €10 to pensioners but would reward others, including those on unemployment job seekers payments, by €15.

“To achieve a balanced, fair, and rewarding Budget, you need to strive for equity. Pensioners, who may be enjoying their retirement after providing for their families and loved ones, should be treated the same as others,” Byrne declared without a hint of irony.

“They have worked all their lives to provide a home for their families and should now be able to enjoy the benefits of that. They have contributed to this country and its economic well-being.

“Yet Sinn Féin has them at the bottom of their magic money tree. Sinn Féin want to give pensioners €10 in their alternative Budget while other sectors benefit more. Why?” she bawled.

Senator Byrne will certainly win a few pensioners’ votes if she decides to run for DEM. But maybe it’s Leo she should be scolding for people’s current plight? Pensioners and all.

After the fairytale 2024 budget, which will mean diddly-squat to most of us, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty slammed Budget 2024 as “one for landlords”. As well as hitting out that the health system has been left forgotten, he took the view that the Budget should have been one focused on fixing the housing crisis.

“We needed a Budget for renters, instead we got a Budget for landlords,” he said.

First-time Limerick Sinn Féin candidate Danielle O’Shea also took the opportunity to hit back at Senator Byrne’s budget comments and she came out punching. Start as you mean to go on, I suppose.

Coming on like Limerick’s answer to Maximus Decimus Meridius, O’Shea lashed out that the Fine Gaeler’s comments were a “desperate attempt to be relevant”.

“I read the Fine Gael press release issued under the name of Maria Byrne, a Limerick-based Fine Gael Senator, with amusement. It seems that Senator Byrne has been reduced to the role of responding to the proposals of the opposition in a desperate effort to stay relevant,” the City East Local Elections candidate declared. Ouch!

“Perhaps Ms Byrne could re-focus her energy and discuss with her Fine Gael party colleagues what they propose to do to address the disaster that is Limerick’s University Hospital. Her silence on the trolley crisis and capacity issues, that have a huge impact on our more senior citizens, is deafening. Perhaps Ms Byrne could address the waiting lists and cancelled elective surgeries at University Hospital Limerick,” she suggested.

And O’Shea wasn’t finished yet. If anything, she was only getting warmed up. She wasn’t long getting the hang of this local politics craic, let me tell you.

“I think the tactic of trying to pitch one cohort of Social Protection payment recipients against another is evidence of just how desperate she has become. The fact that Fine Gael has issued no less than six press releases in response to our alternative budget shows a level of desperation that now seems to be permeating across their party.

“This month we will see two increases in the cost of petrol and diesel. These are increases that will impact everybody but particularly those with little to no disposable income. Some of these people will be pensioners. Fine Gael seem to want to giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.”

Hold onto your election posters folks, things are going to get real ugly. In fairness to them though, they are only getting warmed up.

They won’t become fully unhinged for another few months yet. Come January there will be a madness in the eyes and a smarmy insincerity in the tone of many wannabe pothole-pointing baby-kissers when they come knocking at your door.

Right now, candidates are really only thawing out for marathon wagging of pointing fingers at lampposts and potholes after Christmas.

There’s going to be catfights and hissy fits aplenty. I can hardly wait.