Green Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin recently described the Galway City Council as being a dysfunctional institution and in the aftermath received a tongue lashing from certain councillors for what was seen as an unwarranted attack.
Maybe we should step back and look at certain behaviour which may have led the Green senator to even feel it necessary to make such a statement.
As a councillor Ó Brolcháin spent five years in the chamber and would have observed the moral conduct and deportment of all 15 councillors from 2004 to 2009. He would have seen the failure of successive mayors, including himself, in curbing the dysfunctional behaviour.
For years nobody learnt the lesson of that which you tolerate will dominate and what you refuse to confront you can never correct.
This air of intimidation reigned during every mayoral term but one and to the overall detriment of the council it was tolerated and not dealt with.
In a recent court case Judge Groarke addressed the accused and said, “ You don’t like people who are not intimidated by you and you like people to be subservient to you. Maybe that was something you learnt at home, that if you do not get your own way you become violent.”
This was the atmosphere that prevailed in City Hall and mainly officials, some councillors, and staff bore the brunt of it. It was erratic, unstable, and dysfunctional, and was never really tackled head on.
It has to be said that Mayor Declan McDonnell and city manager Joe MacGrath seemed to nip it in the bud after the last episode where an official was told he was a “sick man”. The dysfunctional behaviour had reached an all time low and some dignity had to be returned to the chamber.
If Senator Ó Brolcháin returned to the City Hall he would now see a different chamber and although an odd rattler is still been thrown from the pram the petulant, obnoxious, adolescent behaviour has being curbed and hopefully put to bed. So let us look at the performance and functionality of each councillor.
Cllr Billy Cameron - Poll topper in Galway City Central in 2009, a regular contributor to debates with a common sense agenda. Seems happy enough to be a foot soldier for Labour and a servant of the communities he represents.
Cllr Pádraig Conneely - Media savvy was not enough to allow him top the poll in 2009. Certainly outspoken bordering on overkill, theatrical to the last. Some would say the thespian of the Council. Effective but he is not parliamentary material because of age.
Cllr Catherine Connolly - Head and shoulders above all others in the chamber. Has a passion for Galway and its people. A eloquent performer who speaks with conviction. Ploughing a lonely furrow without a party and will miss out on the Dáil seat she deserves because of this.
Cllr Colette Connolly - We are now seeing a more relaxed councillor. The strain of several chairs in the last council seemed to have taken its toll. Debate contributions are now more considered, precise, and to the point. Takes the job seriously.
Cllr Tom Costello - Never misses out on a debate and can pull a cliché out of the sky to suit the context. One of the longest serving councillors in the chamber. Thoughts and ideas are always measured. Always willing to see the bigger picture and seek common ground.
Cllr Michael Crowe - Is maturing into a capable leader of Fianna Fáil within the chamber. Always overshadowed by Cllr Michael Leahy (RIP ) but now blossoming and much more confident in his convictions and contributions. Learning the trade well but still backbench material.
Cllr Ollie Crowe - Has settled in well and not afraid to contribute but somewhat “Ballymagash” in his delivery with his thumping of the table, and his pen throwing. Theatrical at present but in danger of becoming pantomime like.
Cllr Peter Keane - Coming from a law background you would have expected an eagerness and appetite for debate but he has failed to ignite. Contributions when made whether in English or as Gaeilge are effective. Could be a slow burner. Crowes beware!
Cllr Donal Lyons – Poll topper and regular contributor with years of experience. He is the ultimate community candidate from pot-holes to pitches. Was absent from the chamber on one variation to the City Development Plan given his previous cautious and professional approach in the past.
Cllr Declan McDonnell – Mayor McDonnell has had a good year to date, is even-handed if not visibly tired at times which can lead to moodiness. Has managed to control the unruly with the help of the manager and has to be commended for this alone.
Cllr Niall McNelis - Ambitious to go further but Labour does not hand out Seanad seats willy nilly. Has a penchant for Europe as he showed in his organising the Labour Campaign for Lisbon. Has done reasonably well in the chamber but must rely more on gut instincts.
Cllr Hildegarde Naughton – Yum Yum did not sing in tune on the City Development Plan and was rebuked by the boys for being a naughty girl. It goes to show you though how one political move against the grain can make your political name overnight.
Cllr Derek Nolan – Speaks for himself and is a puppet for nobody. Was very impressive during the City Development Plan with policy submissions, and his overall contributions so far shows a talent beyond his years. Will be hearing a lot more from him in the coming months.
Cllr Terry O’Flaherty – What you see is what you get with O’Flaherty, impressed as a poll topper but not as impressive in the Chamber. Well liked and with the community at heart. Honesty, hard work, and dedication best describe her.
Cllr Brian Walsh - Jilted Enda Kenny at the last General Election and in all probability will not be asked this time round. Has the skills and ability and would make a parliamentarian but also has a relaxed, laid back, attitude. Contributions are always constructive, thought out, sensible, and above all practical.