Council Affairs: Don’t look back in anger, if you didn’t vote

Just 51 per cent of Limerick's electorate turned out for last Friday's ballot. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

INSANITY, they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This doesn’t count for Irish voters of course, who are a rational, measured, and reasoned bunch, with memories that out-perform any elephant in a Leaving Cert Irish oral.

We are well over a decade into a crippling housing shortage, and just as long into the trolley crisis in University Hospital Limerick, but change, it would seem, is the last thing on anyone’s mind.

The palpable anger in recent times over housing, health, a lack of Garda resources, and whatever you are having yourself has all evaporated in a puff of doorstep manner and flyers palmed into voter’s hands with a knowing wink.

But as my granny used to say, “you’ve burnt your arse, now sit on your blister”. She was a very empathetic woman my granny.

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Sure, local elections have always been a very different beast to a general election, we know that. Councillors are the little guys on the ground that get the jobs done that matter most to the communities in their wards.

Getting potholes filled, streetlights provided, and helping people get sorted with social housing (no, really) are what wins them votes and keeps our local representatives front and centre of local government.

They do not have the power to deal with the big issues. They have no skin in the game when it comes to trolleys or the housing shortage or how many Gardaí are on hand to break up a scrap over a super gravy on O’Connell Street at 2am. They work hard, get little thanks for it, and are first against the wall when things get ugly. They are easy targets, and unjustly so most of the time.

Still, the opportunity was there to send out a strong message to our government, at a time when people keep saying – good, bad, or indifferent – that a message needs to be sent.

And what message did we chose to send? ‘Actually we’re grand lads.’

Only 51 per cent of Limerick’s 157,672 electorate turned out to cast their vote last Friday. I see the comments on the Limerick Post social media pages – how can you demand change when you won’t even get up off your comfortable posterior to vote for it? Well I hope that’s the last of the moaning I hear now, at least from that 49 per cent.

With only minor changes and small upsets to the local government apple cart, we have chosen a council that will be led primarily by Fine Gael councillors, with 13 candidates past the post, and from 10 Fianna Fáil, many welcome and familiar faces among them. Joining the coalition honchos we have seven Independents (including two from new party Independent Ireland), three Sinn Féin, three Labour, two Social Democrats, one Aontú, and one Green Party councillor.

If we are going to take such a ‘cat ate my homework’ approach to the ballot from here out, we really should reign in our moaning. Can we agree on that? Our councillors have plenty of get up and go. They campaigned long and hard these past few weeks to get into (and back into) their freshly plumped seats. Electorate, what’s your excuse?

To our new council reps, I say welcome, and I look forward to poking your proverbial bear in these pages over the coming term. To those who didn’t make it back into their seats, and those who bowed ahead of the race – thank you, Councillor.