Our city councillors in 2021 - a review

Some councillors have had a better year than others as all adjust to the Zoom meeting era

Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

As we approach the end of another year, it is always interesting to review the local political goings-on in the Galway City Council. Let us examine each grouping in the chamber.

Fianna Fáil

Led by Cllr MJ Crowe, and ably assisted by Cllr Peter Keane [pictured below], Fianna Fáil is the largest political party in the city. The officials fear this group more than any other. Armed with attention to detail, analysis, and razor-sharp intuition they give the management in City Hall more headaches than any other group. Crowe and Keane have a true sense of what is right, as opposed to popular, and again this week that came through with both councillors deriding the proposed marketing grants.

These grants had been proposed by Cllr Lyons and seconded by Cllr Cubbard who are in the majority pact. After much debate, their proposal was defeated, with an alternative proposal by Cllr Keane proved successful. It was yet another bad day for the ruling majority of Fine Gael, Greens, Labour, and Independents.

Cllr John Connolly is also an able contributor on the FF team. Well across his brief, he covers areas such as water quality and housing comprehensively. He has grown in stature as the year has progressed and if it is in a report, you can be assured he has it read.

Cllr Alan Cheevers has also grown in confidence over time and is well able to hold the officials to account on matters. A recent example of this has been his continuous raising of the derelict site tax. It is probably fair to say, because of Cllr Cheevers constant querying, it has come to light that the fund amount raised from this is minute! Cllr Imelda Byrne makes up the fifth member of the team and again is also coming into her own recently. That said, she does need to pick up the pace as before we know it, it will be election time again.

Fine Gael

There are three members, captained by Cllr Frank Fahy who has done a good job in this role. Insider understands that things have not always been harmonious in the FG camp, but they do seem to be pulling together presently.

Cllr Eddie Hoare [pictured above] and Cllr Clodagh Higgins are both new to politics, but have performed reasonably well. Both are avid social media users and obviously feel such platforms are the future. That old saying, ‘the old dog for the hard road and the pub for the boreen’ does spring to mind when comparing Cllr Fahy to his two colleagues. For clarity, Insider means that in a positive manner. Cllr Fahy knows the world of politics betterm and how to make the most of all situations. Cllrs Hoare and Higgins are still learning. They could do worse than observe their party whip more closely.

The Green Party

During government negotiations back in 2007, the then Progressive Democrat leader, Mary Harney reportedly quipped to then Green Party leader, John Gormally that ‘your worst day in government is better than your best day in opposition.’ Insider is not sure that statement has stood the test of time, but on that occasion, it had an impact, as the Greens went into Government.

The local Greens in the form of Cllrs Niall Murphy and deputy mayor Martina O’Connor also went into Government, albeit local government as outlined with Fine Gael, Labour, and a mix of independents. They have found this position difficult and have gone overboard on numerous occasions.

The latest example this week when they sided with Fianna Fáil on the aforementioned marketing fund and voted against their own pact. Overall, their performance this year has been reasonable. Both are first time councillors and both like others are still finding their feet. They will have a difficult time ahead as various national legislation, brought in by the Greens comes to pass. These measures are going to financially hurt lower- and middle-class Ireland and thus this is going to have political ramifications. It really is not easy being green.

Labour and Soc Dems

Labour’s party’s sole representative on the council is Niall McNeilus. The Galway City West councillor tends to go with the flow as opposed to having any strong views of his own. Despite what one might think, it works, as he remains a popular figure in his local electoral area.

Cllr Owen Hanley of the Social Democrats appears to be the opposite. He thinks matters out, goes through the details, and comes to an informed decision. Of all the newly elected councillors of 2019, he is one of the more impressive. He is deserving of a run at the Dail as his party’s candidate should he seek it. Other members in the Social Democrats might think otherwise. However, the difference between Cllr Hanley and some of the would-be kings is, he got elected.

Ex-PD Independents

“They haven’t gone away you know.” They being the Progressive Democrats. While that party is no more, councillors Declan McDonnell, Terry O’Flaherty, and Donal Lyons [pictured above] are still going after all these years.

All three have performed reasonably well this year ,but sometimes it seems as if their best days might have passed. That said, the bottom line is that, as long as each of them want to be in City Hall, they will be. Insider might yet come to the realisation that their best days are far from over. Time, as always, will tell.

Other Independents

Cllr Noel Larkin has had a quiet year, but he pops up and bursts onto the scene intermittently, and the issues he raises are important to many people. He is a big advocate of the view that anti-social behaviour should be punished more severely. Many agree with that proposition, and it goes down well in the middle-class areas of Galway City East where his support lies.

It is said that when a Mayor returns to be a councillor, the adjustment takes time. Well Cllr Mike Cubbard [pictured above] had two consecutive years as Mayor so that adjustment was probably much harder. Seen as fair and competent in the chair, and raising relevant issues recently, he has put down a good year.

Finally, we have the present Mayor, Cllr Collette Connolly [pictured below]. It is not easy chairing meetings with some people in the room and some people on the screen. In fact, Insider would say it is very difficult.

However, she also needs to familiarise herself more with the rules of chairing or she will have a very long and trying year. The pressure is only going to intensify, and the Mayor of the day needs to bring most of the councillors with them. Otherwise, they will pay a price.

Changed times

We live in strange times. We have gone from in-person, turn on your microphone, to online, you are on mute. Quite a turnaround in a short time. Change does not suit everyone. Overall, it is fair to say Councillors have adjusted well. The past year has seen some adapt better than others. Next year will tell more.

In the short to medium term there will be more Zooming. Who would have thought a few years ago you could attend a council meeting from your kitchen table? Not many. Where will things be in another few years? The answer is no one really knows. We will see what 2022 and beyond holds. Belt up.


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