Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome aboard this afternoon’s flight to the Pig’s Back. Our journey time will be approximately 52 weeks and although there will not be any in-flight service along the way, you can rest assured that as soon as you reach the Pig’s Back, you will be very well catered for.
Yes folks, there is just a year between now and the day when you can become a local councillor. This time next year, the poles and billboards will be festooned with beautiful images (airbrushed with a yardbrush ) of the 100 or so candidates who will aim to win the 57 seats up for grabs as a city or county councillor. As if there weren’t enough councillors, last year’s strangely titled Putting People First programme decided that not alone had we too many councillors, but also that we simply hadn’t enough — and sure, what harm would 57 councillors do rattling around the city and county looking for things to do with no money to do them.
Already a few heads have started popping above the parapet, but surely it is time for some serious new blood in the chambers to break up the monotony, raise the bar and shatter a few of the cosy political cartels that ultimately give us THEIR choice of candidates that we can elect to each council.
At a time when the stock of political parties has never been lower, and at a time when communities are being forced to fend for themselves, you would think that there is not a better opportunity for our councils to be filled with the 59 councillors who are simply the best thinkers and doers, willing to do the job. That is not the case. And therein lies the problem.
The city and county are undoubtedly full of people who would make an enormous contribution to the development of the areas, but for a variety of reasons, they are not interested in standing for election, running the risk of being humiliated and insulted in the course of political discourse, and then finding themselves powerless and unable to do little more than fix a wonky door for a constituent. Real doers would not be able to sit through all that chronological waffle before coming to a predetermined outcome. Although the average expenses received by each councillor are enough to pay the mortgage for five years.
However, in the same way we thought that the Farnborough forum with Ireland’s brightest entrepreneurs would fix all the country’s ills, perhaps we tend to be naive when it comes to selecting a dream team for our councils.
Why do we have such a poor perception of our councillors? To be fair to the county councillors, they do not engage in the showbusiness that passes for business in the city council chambers, so it is unfair to tar them all with the same brush. However, some of the behaviour, insults and comments from the city council has detracted from the serious business at hand, likening it to a kindergarten rather than a forum for the development of the city.
So why do more people not go for the councils? Why do we not have a city council that is more representative of the actual city than the one we do. Why do we have all-white councils? Why do we allow the parties to decide who should be co-opted? Surely, the seats are the property of the people, not the parties.
Will this change? If you do not put ourselves forward and have confidence that you can make a contribution, then it will go on and on.
If you feel you have something to offer this city or county (other than an affiliation to a party ), then this time next year you could be an election candidate. Think about it — your council needs you.