To inspire schoolchildren, councillors will have to stop acting like them
It is perhaps quite appropriate that Mayor Hildegarde Naughton, herself a schoolteacher by profession, brought some of the city’s young people into the Council chambers this week to launch her novel initiative Know Your Council, which is aimed at getting young people interested in and giving them a knowledge of the workings of local government. At such an age, the happenings at City Hall on alternative Monday evenings are perhaps the furthest things from the minds of these youngsters, but it is a novel way of introducing the city’s youngsters into the processes that, for better or worse, determine how public services are overseen in the city.
This project is a good opportunity for pupils to explore the importance of local government and how the system works and the role that councillors play within the community and in the life and progress of the city It is a programme which if successful could be rolled out across the region and country, because there is a massive deficit in the interest which young people show in local politics, or politics of any nature.
The competition in is being run in partnership with Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) at National University of Ireland, Galway The “Know Your Council” competition is open to all fifth and sixxth classes in the city. Two pupils from each school will go on to present their project at the final which will be held in the council chamber in City Hall on May 28 . All participants will receive a certificate and the winning school will receive an IPad sponsored by NUI,Galway and an opportunity to work in conjunction with NUI,Galway to compile a booklet on local government for primary schools.
Mayor Naughton is to be applauded for the initiative but herself and the other councillros have a key role to play in this becasue on many many occasions over the past decade, the antics of the councillors at City Council meetings would have made even the unruliest of schoolclasses look like a gathering of Mother Teresas. One of the key aspects we all hope will be engendered into our young people is that of respect and good manners, but respect and cordiality has been in short supply for the vast majority of the meetings of these 15 councillors.
Now they may say that respect is a two-way street, but the name-calling, strop-stretching, shape-throwing that has dominated many meetings over the past decade is not a very good example to be shown to youngsters who for all their naivete and innocence may believe that respect and honesty are the order of the day when it comes to 15 people running the city for the betterment of its people, and not just for the achievement of local political goals and pointscoring.
The Council system is the one that will be present when these young people go on to make their contribution as adults to this city and the model for their attitude towards it should of a group of dedicated, honest, respectful people working TOGETHER for the city and not using it as a soapbox for soundbites. Over to you, councillors.