Time to rebuild relationships between councillors and city council officials

‘It is time the elected members and management pulled together. The people of Galway are owed that’

The current elected members of the Galway City Council. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

The current elected members of the Galway City Council. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Relationships matter. They impact on all our lives - daily. Some we do not notice, maybe take for granted. Others we work at, consciously. Whether we realise it or not, the former matter, the latter not as much.

City Hall is a much different place to what it was pre-Covid. Relationships between staff and the elected members are not the same as they were before. Social distancing has become permanent distancing.

Over the last two years, meetings have been online only, or at best hybrid (a mix of online attendance and in person attendance ). This is a difficult forum to get things done in. It is more difficult to establish and maintain working relationships. It is nigh on impossible to do either with such a large group of individuals as there are at these meetings.

Zoom is grand. MS Teams is grand. Cisco Webex is grand. Listen in case you are in any doubt, all such platforms are grand. You can see the other person; you can hear the other person; but that is where the human senses end - and these senses are important, they are important ingredients in forming the relationship. It is a chicken and egg scenario, one is impossible without the other.

The next local election

You might wonder where all this is going. I guess the point is that to get things done, it is far easier in an environment where at the very least there is some relationship. Presently, there is very little, if any, of a relationship between the elected councillors and the management in City Hall.

Insider believes that ultimately the biggest loser because of this, are the residents of Galway. Add in the fact there have been a lot of staff changes in City Hall in recent years, coupled with no in-person meetings of any kind, and it has led to both sides becoming almost strangers to each other.

The cynics among the councillors believe any moves to keep the meetings online means it is easier for some to avoid harder questioning and avoid having the public attend. Either way it appears Covid is over, or at least the restrictions are over. This will allow ‘normality’ to return, and so it is time to begin establishing new relationships.

So where to from now? With little over two years left in this current council, Insider is unsure if there is time to both build relationships and get significant projects done. That might seem an odd thing to say as one might think that +24 months is a lot of time. In politics, even local politics, it is not.

There are only a certain number of meetings each month, and a certain number of other interactions between councillors and staff outside of those. Months pass, time passes, and suddenly you are into 2023 and councillors are staring down the barrel of a local election.

Once the autumn of that year comes, the dynamic of the workings in city hall changes again. From then on, everything councillors do they will do with one eye to the election in May 2024. That is the nature of the beast! It does not leave much time really.

An ‘underwhelming’ council

Insider has observed many councils over the last couple of decades and this is without doubt the most underwhelming. To be fair, nature has not been kind. It has in effect turned this term of office from five years to two years. The pandemic has seen to that. Regardless, it is time elected members and management pulled together. It is their responsibility to do so. The people of Galway are owed that. They pay taxes and expect it. That is hardly unreasonable.

Insider believes that an important step in that would be for management to now reach out to the senior councillors. Independents Declan McDonnell, Donal Lyons, and Terry O’Flaherty, Fianna Fáil’s Mike Crowe, and Fine Gael’s Frank Fahy are all veteran operators who know how to do business and how to get business done.

In past times various directors of services in City Hall would have run certain things by the ‘veterans’ of the council before bringing the item into a council meeting. This often took ‘the sting’ out of things as potential areas of conflict would be ironed out beforehand, and more importantly from the directors’ point of view, it would not be in public.

That is how it should work. That is where the relationship comes in. It allows a person to pick up the phone, meet for a coffee, have a chat, and whatever else. This leads to discussion which eventually, often leads to a positive conclusion on the issue for the city.

You see now? Relationships matter, they always have, they always will. It is time they were formed or reformed in City Hall. The people of the city deserve no less. Time is passing, Insider only hopes it is not too late.


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