The benefits of recycling our wasted community wisdom

I often wonder about the amount of wisdom that filters through our lives unused. The stories untold, the knowledge unshared, the information that is left under-utilised. All of our communities feature hundreds of people who have a major contribution to make to the betterment of life, yet there is often no facilitation of this expertise.

On one level, think of the men’s sheds — set up to enable people of mixed personalities and expertise to come together, and after a few ‘howyas’ and ‘lishens’, that a conversation ensues about how they can combine to make life better for their communities.

I write about this week in the wake of our front page story (and Page 4 ) that a grouping of the city’s mayors has come together to allow themselves to be used to promote Galway 2020.

Combined, they offer a wealth of political, cutlutral, and human experience. By their nature, they have seen how the city has been run for decades. They have seen many projects come alive and many fall by the wayside. They have a unique position at the heart of our local government and of our community.

It is to be hoped that they will offer a sort of gravitas to the campaign to get this project on the right footing and keep it there. They certainly have a breadth of experience and ages to enable them to offer unique viewpoints on it.

I often bemoan the amount of experience that was taken away from local councils and by extension, local communities, by the decision of some decades ago to get rid of the dual mandate preventing Oireachtas members from sitting on councils. While there is no doubt it allowed a whole fresh new generation to come through, it meant that the level of discourse at city and county council meetings went down a notch.

It was if the senior team was told well, from now on, we can only play minors. At one fell swoop, our councils were denuded of decades of experience at the highest level of government. And to be honest, I don’t think local government has ever really recovered from that. I know from covering the meetings for a decade before that decision, that what followed after was shocking.

Pettiness replaced patience, point scoring became the order of the day. Maybe it is naive to think that our councils could ever work together in a pure sense for the betterment of the city without there being any agenda at play. That meetings could be held cordially and productively; that sheer good manners were maintained; that respect from and for both councillors and officials would be expected and delivered.

I wonder if for a few weeks, the business of the city council meetings was handed out to the equivalent of a men’s shed, what would be achieved in the same number of hours. What objectives would be reached. What agendas would be shown up to be what they are.

I hope that this grouping of mayors when they meet again for the purpose, do so removed from their political affiliation, with the solid and singular aim of progressing Galway 2020. And if this works, this local Council of State to aid the sitting mayor could be a vehicle for progression for other projects.


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