Council Affairs: A term in review

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

BADA bing bada boom – another council term is over. And as voters head to the polls this Friday to vote on the next lot of pothole patriots to take their seats on Limerick City and County Council, I thought now would be a fitting time to round out the era with some of the highlights of the last five years.

Back in November 2022, at the dawn of this Council Affairs column, feathers were truly ruffled after our very first outing.

Cathaoirleach of the Adare-Rathkeale Municipal District at the time, Cllr Stephen Keary (FG), took issue with the Limerick Post’s new satirical column and decided public execution was a better way to air his grievances than picking up the phone.

“If you are prepared to write this stuff, you are not welcome at our next meeting,” the Fine Gael man barked at reporter Alan Jacques, who was covering the area meeting.

The new column came under fire for comments made about the October 2022 area meeting – which only managed to see half of the nine the issues on the agenda covered in three hours.

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Cllr Keary made it clear that anyone responsible for writing such “tripe” was unwelcome to attend the open-to-the-public forum.

With such a ringing endorsement, we knew we were onto a good thing.

The last five years of LCCC has also given us the greatest saga since Star Wars (but the good Star Wars). The O’Connell Street Revitalisation Project was a never-ending story which many of us are still waiting to kick off any day again. It had it all. From delays and overruns to rotating prisms and more grease and grime than Helen O’Donnell could shake a mop at.

Councillors expressed strong views about the quality of the finish and delays in completing the €9million project at a meeting in May 2023.

Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely was so disillusioned that she proposed the removal of the bus lane on O’Connell Street and the reinstatement of a two lane traffic management system on the city’s main thoroughfare.

Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan expressed regret for ever voting to approve the project in the first pace. In hindsight, he was of the view that it had been “rammed down their throats”.

Fianna Fáil’s Azad Talukder raised safety concerns for blind and visually impaired people in navigating the new road system.

The same City West representative landed himself in hot water last December after an off-the-cuff gaffe in the council chamber about the Dublin riots, in which three children and a crèche worker were stabbed.

One of the most memorable meetings of the last term, however, was in April 2023. The meeting out in County Hall had to be abandoned after angry scenes ensued following council members being prevented from debating a Sinn Féin motion calling on the government to extend the eviction ban.

Temperatures flared after a counter motion from Fine Gael was proposed and seconded, calling on the government to expedite the counter measures democratically passed by Dáil Éireann on foot of lifting the temporary eviction ban.

Then Mayor Francis Foley (FF) called for a vote on the counter proposal without any debate from members on the eviction ban, which did not go down well in certain quarters of the chamber.

“No Mayor, that is not happening,” Cllr Sharon Benson fumed.

The reason for the emergency meeting, the Sinn Féin woman explained, was to discuss evictions and to receive a report regarding emergency accommodation, and she wasn’t going to be fobbed off with talk of standing orders and votes on counter-proposals.

Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan wanted to know if he was attending a meeting of the “Russian Duma” or Limerick City and County Council.

As proceedings moved on, Cllr Benson refused to be walked over and hit out that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had taken away democracy. As the meeting was eventually abandoned, the City North representative refused to leave the Dooradoyle chambers until she was heard. She may be there still, I genuinely don’t know.

And with such memorable shannanigans, why would anyone not want to exercise their right to vote for the cast of characters in Dr Pat Daly’s latest reality TV-esque spectacular. Get out and vote people. But remember, if it changed anything, they would make it illegal.