Council Affairs: Mature councillors in your (electoral) area

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

COUNCILLORS, like the rest of us, can only be young once. But immaturity, well, there’s no expiry date on that, and there was plenty of it evident at County Hall last week as rattlers and soothers were flung out of prams.

Things got very antsy very quickly at the November Metropolitan District meeting. It felt more like a roomful of toddlers needing their nappies changed than a local authority meeting.

The Fine Gael bench was well cranky and could have done with warm bottles of milk and a little nap to take the edge off. The build-up to Local Election 2024 seems to have them rattled.

These political kindergarteners couldn’t even make it to the first item on the agenda without a hissy fit.

It was Labour Party councillor Joe Leddin who pushed the right button to get the council’s Fine Gael members yapping like terriers who just spotted the postman at the front gate.

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At one point during the hurly-burly, he asked (with pure devilment) “who is squeaking now?” A throwaway comment that perfectly captured the infantile mood in County Hall.

And while councillors age like the rest of us, they possess the memory of a elephant who does his daily brain exercises.

Limerick’s deputy mayor, Cllr Dan McSweeney, was reminded of his “hissy fit” at last month’s area meeting. Limerick’s youngest councillor hit out at the Active Travel team and stormed out of the Dooradoyle chamber before an official could respond to his questions back in October.

Cllr McSweeney took aim at Active Travel’s executive engineer Richard Gorey as councillors were asked to consider a Part 8 for the Corbally Road Safe Routes to School scheme. He was far from impressed that all 21 Met members were not given a presentation on the proposed plans. And the Patrickswell man’s colleagues were not so enamoured with his juvenile outburst on the day either.

“It’s not good enough that a councillor will come in here, particularly the Deputy Mayor, and basically abuse an official and walk out and basically give them the two fingers,” Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon commented at the time.

A month on and councillors are still talking about the 24 year old’s Jennifer Lopez moment.

Cllr Joe Leddin took the opportunity to remind the Deputy Mayor of his “immature and inexperienced” antics.

“I want to get clarification now from Cllr McSweeney, has he made an apology to that official?” Cllr Leddin asked.

“We all say things in the heat of the moment, but if he hasn’t made an apology, I will be asking him to make an apology. We need to set a standard here.”

You’d almost swear there was an election around the corner with all the chest puffing.

And did the Deputy Mayor say he was sorry? Before we could get an answer (never mind getting through the 40-item agenda) there was a Fine Gael knicker twist extravaganza that neither Peppa Pig nor Dora the Explorer were going to placate.

“Cllr Leddin has accused me of being immature and this is not the forum to accuse elected members of being immature. I’d ask him to retract those comments immediately,” McSweeney gesticulated.

“I have no intention of withdrawing it until he clarifies whether he apologised to that official or not and then we’ll see if he is immature or mature,” he replied.

The Fine Gael bench by now were all bouncing up and down in their seats like so many Fanta-filled toddlers at a space hopper convention.

They were getting well tetchy and the very mention of electioneering seemed to give them a get-out-of-jail-free card to try the same tactic.

“This councillor is talking about standing orders and totally flouted standing orders and disrespected the Cathaoirleach by interrupting the meeting in such a way. It is pure opportunism and electioneering coming to the end of the council term,” Cllr Kiely suggested.

“I don’t need to take any lectures from Cllr Kiely. You are the very one at the budget meeting last week who disowned herself from her colleague Cllr Teskey,” Cllr Leddin shot back.

I know it is almost Panto season, but Fine Gael were on fire and would have given Twink a run for her money.

“It is a bit rich coming from Cllr Leddin in the kind of behaviour he has displayed over the years in his career. I expect an apology for his ageist comment. The comments made by Cllr Leddin are completely inappropriate, simple as,” said Cllr Daniel Butler, tossing his oar in.

Just as it seemed all was lost and nothing short of milk and cookies could save the day, Green Party councillor Sean Hartigan, wise old crone that he is, got his tuppence in.

“I am sick of this. Can we just get on with the meeting? Stop the waffling.”

Mature words indeed.