Adjustments and arguments

It’s business as usual in the county council chamber.

It’s business as usual in the county council chamber.

AS THE Galway Races gets under way the latest Fianna Fáil ‘cutback’ - or ‘adjustment’ if you prefer - will be obvious to one and all. The Fianna Fáil tent is no more. Is this a sign of the times or just a sensible move by new Taoiseach Brian Cowen?

Most people in Galway will not be overly concerned about the Fianna Fáil tent. They will be far more concerned about their own quality of life and how the promised cutbacks will affect themselves and their families.

Not far removed from the rarefied air of the Galway Racecourse is a fairly unimpressive modern office building called City Hall. It is guarded by two Crimean cannons and a statue of a strange man lying on his elbow in a flowerbed. Padraic Ó Conaire has long since left this spot to sit contentedly in his new museum building in Spanish Arch.

A short walk down one hill and up another will bring you to a slightly more impressive modern office building called County Hall as it overlooks the refurbished and much maligned Eyre Square - a previous home to the ubiquitous Ó Conaire.

Inside these two buildings people are hatching their plans to make the necessary ‘adjustments’ to the public finances. Will the three per cent cuts in salaries and wages affect the staffing levels? Or will it just mean directors and managers having to forego their bonuses while others will have to do without their overtime?

Will we see delays in the implementation of essential services to clean up Galway’s drinking water and beaches? Will we see record housing waiting lists? Will the progress made in recycling and litter management be lost? Will services in general be cut?

Will the new Galway city transport office manage to make any progress in sorting out the public transport deficit? Will the road surfaces around the city and county deteriorate? Or indeed will the funds for housing grants for the most vulnerable people in our society disappear altogether?

While all these questions and many more besides are high on the agenda of our public officials, Insider has a further question to ask: What are our venerable politicians up to?

In County Hall it is business as usual. Grand concepts are pretty much left outside the door as the focus is very much on the parochial self interest that has graced the Galway County Council for as long as anyone can remember. The lack of media coverage of county council business speaks volumes in itself. Though rest assured, the parish pumps all around Co Galway are in safe hands.

Back at City Hall it is business as usual too. There is plenty of media coverage - usually about the dysfunctional nature of the city council or its colourful new Mayor Cllr Padraic Conneely.

The latest row to cause a council meeting to break down without much business getting done is all about a clamp being removed from Mayor Conneely’s car without him paying for it.

Allegations are being made by Independent Cllr Danny Callanan that there is a cover up and that some councillors and officials do not have to obey the parking laws. If this is true it certainly undermines any credibility that the city council has left.

This year’s local and national budgets will be tough ones. With local and European elections on the way next year nobody will want to stand over cutbacks of any sort. Everybody will be blaming everybody else.

It is noticeable in recent weeks that the PDs have started blaming the Greens on various issues from one off housing to grant aid for people with disabilities. This is an extraordinary turn of events altogether. Are the PDs not in the same government as the Greens?

This sort of criticism makes the PDs look quite pathetic. Ah, how the high and mighty have fallen. One wonders if there will be any PD party after the locals anyway or if there will be much left of the Greens after the next General Election?

While the smaller parties squabble among themselves, Fianna Fáil seem to carry on regardless as a Teflon political party who find it very easy to shrug off the pitiful insults being hurled around by Labour and Fine Gael.

Meanwhile the harsh realities of the post-Celtic Tiger era will begin to bite. Rising prices and falling taxes will mean that politicians of all hues will have to face up to the harsh realities of a period of ‘adjustment’. Expressions of outrage will not suffice any more. People will demand real solutions.

Meanwhile back at the Galway Races…

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