Elections and election counts are like horror films or high-rides in a funfair. From a distance, they all seem like they might be good craic, but when you get into them, you kind of regret you ever did.
Myself and my colleagues in this newspaper, and indeed in all media across the country will be on a sort of detox for the coming week to rid us of the lack of fresh air, of proper food, of anything resembling minimum sleep; or the almost hypnotic jump that we make when we hear anyone saying “A dhaoine uaisle” as we did when returning officers Gary McMahon and Alan Farrell got to their podiums on hundreds of occasions last weekend.
I write this full in the knowledge that at time of going to print, the count for the Midlands North West constituency is still ongoing in Castlebar — and the counting staff and media who left home last Saturday morning, will return home to find their lawns overgrown, the sink full of dishes, and a plethora of kids saying “who the hell are you?”
However, covering the counts for journalists is like sowing the seeds for the next five years of information. It is grinding, but groundwork for ensuring that local democracy is seen to be done, and enabling a flow of information from our elected representatives back to the communities they serve.
There is a substantial amount of change in both Galway city and county councils — more than 20 new faces in the two chambers. People who are just dying to get their teeth into the job, to make themselves be heard, to learn from the older more experienced heads.
I am excited about the possibilities of the two councils over the next five years, knowing now that every discussion on whatever topic will feature a cross-section of expert opinion like never before.
Galway city and county are two unique places, with diverse needs ranging from the uber-urban to the remotest-rural. As such, we require councillors who can adapt to the needs of both, so that together as separate councils, they can best serve their communities.
Many of the councillors I spoke to at the weekend opined that the county is not getting its fair share of funding; and in the regard we hope that we have elected a council that will shout loud to ensure that our nose gets into the trough ahead of, or even along with other counties who manage to grab more of the dosh.
The two councils have a nice blend of youth and experience and I wish all of those who were elected the very best for their term in office. We need them to know that they are there to do a job and that the highest standards will be demanded of them.
I hope too that meetings will be productive and effective — and that all discussions will be mannerly and will uphold the dignity of those who are councillors and those who are officials. For too long, we have had to put up with unruly behaviour, at a cost to the effectiveness of the council.
For those who lost out, I commiserate and I implore you to continue working for the betterment of your community. Do not let your time spent on the Council be lost or wasted. For those who have never made it to the chamber, I applaud your bravery in standing, but use that energy now to make a difference.
We are at a crossroads in terms of decency in world politics. The quality of the discourse of our councils can set an example for us all. Well done, enjoy your time, now stay strong on your promise to make a difference.