Council Affairs: Councillors jumping ship as DEM looms closer

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

I DON’T know whether it is the fear of some unknown clown getting the gig as Directly Elected Mayor that has them dropping like flies in Limerick City and County Council or what, but something has them nervy and jumping ship.

In County Hall last week, councillors were saying their goodbyes to Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Support Services — and brains of the operation, in my opinion — Sean Coughlan, who is moving onto pastures new this month.

We’ve also had councillors such as James Collins (FF), Kevin Sheahan (FF), Gerald Mitchell (FG), and now Emmett O’Brien (IND) announcing that they are giving up this old politics lark before it gives up on them.

In a heart-to-heart with local media last week, Cllr O’Brien revealed that he was hanging up his councillor hat as he claimed to have been the victim of “intense bullying” during his 10 years on the local authority.

The same man who snarled at Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan recently out in County Hall as she tried to make a point.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

“Excuse me, without interruption please, I know you were born in England, you mightn’t understand the culture of this country,” Cllr O’Brien told Cllr O’Donovan at the time.

He also said he was stepping away from the council because of what he fears is coming down the line in the next few months.

Predicting a “hamstrung mayor with no power”, a “celebrity candidate” that will make a mockery out of local government, he has opted now to take the last of the lifeboats and skedaddle before it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

“We’re going to have some crazy celebrity socialist candidate making a show of us on an international basis. Really and truly, it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he insisted of the new DEM role.

Honestly, it sounds more like business as usual to me, and, in fairness, Cllr O’Brien thinks everyone is a socialist.

A farmer, barrister, and triathlon athlete, the Pallaskenry man takes the view that what we really need is “a Donogh O’Malley-type figure”.

Maybe he knows someone who fits that bill? Fancies a pop at it himself? As the saying might go, you can take the man out of Fianna Fáil.

So whether it is a crackpot liberal, a celebrity chef, or an old school dyed in the wool conservative Christian democrat that takes the big chair in Merchant’s Quay, Cllr O’Brien is probably right about one thing – chances are, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Many of those working within the current machinations of the local authority are far from enamoured with the prospect of a DEM and are already bailing out. Emmett is only the latest to announce his departure, but I doubt he will be the last.

Anyway, didn’t the same fella predict dancing with wolves if the Green Party ever got into government.

A man who always likes to put people into specific boxes, and is cursed with an unnatural fear of leftists, he referred to the Greens before the last general election as “an ideologically driven radical left wing party that is anti-rural Ireland and anti-prosperity”.

The Green Party, he warned at the time, would turn the clocks back to the 1950s if elected. The West Limerick councillor also suggested that a vote for a Green Party candidate would leave rural dwellers carpooling with one car for 10 people.

“And while we’re navigating our way to find a car, we’d have to contend with wolves, which the Green Party propose to introduce to rural Ireland,” he declared.

Cllr O’Brien and his pal from the Adare-Rathkeale District, Cllr Adam Teskey (FG), were often reminiscent in the council chamber of the two old boys up on the balcony in The Muppet Show — Statler and Waldorf. A great double act, they recently had to be separated in the chamber like “two bold childs”, as Emmett put it himself.

Our very own Rumpole of the Bailey was always a larger than life character at council meetings with a real mischievous streak and views that weren’t for turning. Like his pal Teskey, the pair of them, fancied themselves as contenders to Cllr Kevin Sheahan’s throne and modelled their schtick on his rambunctious style. Both O’Brien and Sheahan will be missed when they sail off into the sunset ahead of elections in June.

Still, I reckon this is not the last we will hear of the Pallaskenry man in the political arena. If anything, this latest move just shows him to be a wise head on young shoulders – when he’s not being the class clown at least.

Sure when it is not waves or storms that is sinking our ships, but ourselves, then jumping overboard seems like a pretty good move.

Bon voyage Emmett, and watch out for those lefties!