“DINOSAURS”, “climate change deniers”, “morons” – we had them all at the most recent meeting of Limerick City and County Council.
Our local representatives came across more like gnarly caveman chewing on some hallucinatory flora than local politicians at last week’s full meeting. You’d swear half of them were blissfully unaware of the ugly balderdash coming out of their mouths. I don’t know what they were putting in the Brussels sprouts at their Christmas dinner before the meeting. Maybe it’s just that when their bellies are full, their guard is down and we get a more accurate reflection of what really goes on in their troglodytic minds, but it had them in rare form let me tell you.
You never really know what kind of cabaret show the boys and gals in County Hall are going to put on for you. It will always be epic, but whether they are going to go full on Ballymagash or instead opt for something a bit more outlandish, is always part of the surprise.
The full monthly meeting of Limerick City and County Council is always an experience, and by the time you come away from it, you feel like you have been down the rabbit hole, battled the jabberwocky, and come out the other side more than a little gallymoggers asking if some of them really hear themselves at all.
Did I just hear that correctly? Did a council member just say what I think they said? Am I losing my mind?
The November meeting of the Limerick Council was one of the most surreal and spine-chilling I have ever witnessed.
Some comments made by local representatives were more shocking than others, and one local councillor even made national headlines and had Conor McGregor tweeting about his comments at County Hall.
Green Party councillor Seán Hartigan was not wrong when he suggested that people need to see what they elected.
A forthright individual, Hartigan took the view that last week’s meeting was a case in point for having TV cameras at local authority meetings. There’d be nothing else to match it on daytime television, that’s for sure.
The City East representative was flumoxed by the debate he had just sat through relating to wind energy development guidelines.
“People need to see what they have elected, the climate deniers they have elected. People talking absolute nonsense here about there not being enough wind to boil an egg — that was Cllr Stephen Keary’s comment. The same councillor previously suggested we might need to retrofit chimneys on houses,” Cllr Hartigan fumed.
“We are dealing with dinosaurs in here, complete climate change deniers. We have had the wettest June on record, the hottest July. There’s disaster throughout the world related to climate change and you have absolute morons in here.”
Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary was having none of it.
“I take grave exception to that. I think that person should be asked to leave the chamber. If you drive the roads at any day past any of the wind turbines, especially the ones on low land, you will see that they are not rotating, and I do believe an egg wouldn’t boil,” he hit back.
Was Cllr Keary the only “moron” or were there others, was the question from Fianna Fáil councillor Kieran O’Hanlon.
“No, I think Emmett O’Brien’s speech was foolish as well,” Hartigan replied.
The Independent councillor claimed that he didn’t really care about what was happening in war-stricken Palestine and Ukraine, and was aghast that we “concern ourselves about it so much”.
O’Brien took issue with a motion from Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan, who called for the local authority to endorse the Amnesty International report entitled ‘Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and a Crime Against Humanity‘. She also called for support of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement as a show of solidarity with Palestine.
But Cllr O’Brien was far from moved and described the motion as “shameful”.
“I don’t exactly break out in cold sweat every night about Israel and Palestine, and I certainly don’t care what’s happening in the Ukraine and Russia.
“When I hear the word boycott, and I hear the words domination, it just triggers something in me that this is a deeply dark, divisive, hostile motion brought here today. It is about setting people against people. Setting Israelis against Palestinian. Setting us against the Israelis,” he declared.
Things got really ugly when Cllr O’Donovan tried to interject and take task with remarks O’Brien had made during his oration.
“Excuse me, without interruption please, I know you were born in England, you mightn’t understand the culture of this country,” Cllr O’Brien shot back.
Cllr O’Donovan kept her powder dry and took the Pallaskenry man down with a real dignified panache.
The City West representative was allowed the last word on her motion, which was passed at the monthly meeting.
“I would just like to remind Cllr O’Brien that, at a special meeting on Ukraine we had last March, he described the events in Ukraine as ‘heartbreaking’, which I got from the minutes. This shows that at some stage you were moved by international events,” she argued.
Bravo Cllr O’Donovan.
But there was more to come still.
Not only did we have Independent councillor Eddie Ryan complaining about the Christmas dinner served up to council members before the meeting, they were goading poor auld Kevin Sheahan for missing it.
By all accounts, the food was cold and didn’t meet the standards our well-fed representatives are accustomed to. Still, it is the thought that counts, so fair play Limerick City and County Council. Some people there’s just no pleasing.
But there was one shocking moment in the November meeting that really took the biscuit. One would really hope it serves as reminder to members to watch the words that come out of their mouths in future.
Before being asked to withdraw his comment, which he did, Fianna Fáil councillor Azad Talukder said that he would like to see those involved in the recent Dublin riots “shot in the head”.
Talukder, Cathaoirleach of LCCC’s Metropolitan District, called for more severe forms of public punishment to deal with the riot’s perpetrators.
“I strongly believe that this is not the face of Ireland. This is just some criminals looting the shops. I don’t think they follow any ideological purpose. They come to the streets and just rob. They should get punishment.
“Not even an animal does these kind of thing. It is very shameful and they should get public punishment.
“I’d like to see them shot in the head or bring the public in and beat them until they die,” Cllr Talukder told council members.
Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan was quick to respond and called for an immediate withdrawal of the comments.
In response, Cllr Talukder remarked: “Okay, I can withdraw that. I just put my emotion only. I hope Conor Sheehan understands that is only an expression of my emotion.”
Silence, we would do well to remember, is better than unmeaning words.