There is something about the smell of new carpet that drives us all daft. Or the whiff of a freshly vacuumed office. Or the dying aroma of the last coat of paint that has been applied over some wall. There’s a reason that a new car smell adds a few grand to the price of your car.
So with that in mind, we are prepared to forgive our county councillors this week for their giddiness at their first meeting back in headquarters yesterday. For those of you not familiar with the backstory. First there was County Buildings which had the feel of a workhouse about it, and the chamber where the councillors met for over a hundred years was a draughty austere room with boards listing the names of a century of dead chairmen. It was a building built for a different age and so the Council set about leaving it. Their first plan was to move to Cluain Mhuire at Wellpark and the new Chamber for the meetings was going to be the oratory in that former monastery, with the light from its stained glass windows throwing colour down on the long deliberations of the councillors below. But when it was pointed out that Cluain Mhuire was several bus rides across the county for those from the county, that idea was dismissed and the plan was advanced to knock County Buildings and replace it with a modern atrium-lit monument to democracy to be built at Prospect Hill. And so it was, complete with a modern yet spatially wasteful chamber. But then a few years ago when they decided to increase the number of councillors by nine, it was deemed that more space was needed to accommodate the new bunch.
And so last year began the construction of the state of the art, spanking new, chamber. Not to be confused with a state of the art new spanking chamber, which to be honest might have been more appropriate given the infantile behaviour of some councillors at the sexy new chamber’s first outing yesterday (Wednesday ) morning. Given that the new fit out set the taxpayer back about €450k, councillors would have been best advised to slip in quietly and get on with things. Instead they’ve just brought attention to it all.
The new chamber is positively Ceaucescuan. It’s more Brussels than Barna. It’s more UN than New Inn.
Not content with sitting down on their new thrones and playing with the the modern computer thingys with the Internet on the line, and surfing down virus videos, checking out the latest Jennifer Lawrence hacked pics, the councillors got arsy about their seats. Not the comfort or anything, but the sheer positioning of them. Some of the reasons for their anger were justified. One councillor needed space for his prosthetic leg, but the majority of the complaints were purely semantic. Basically the Fianna Fails and the Fine Gaels used to sit in certain places and those certain places were not respected in this set set up. And Sinn Fein want to sit there as well. It was like first day at school and the first kids in the door got the best seats.
Now the country may have voted in same gender marriage last weekend, but the idea of increasing proximity for FG and FF is still a war that cannot be mentioned, a step too far it seems. We cannot have FG and FF hanging around together. What about the children? Kids need to grow up knowing the difference between FF and FG. Putting them sitting together in the Council chamber is unnatural, not the way it was meant to be. Now if they want to do it in the privacy of their own homes fine, but not in the publicly-funded council chambers.
The whole thing was a shambles and some councillors labelled it infantile and ridiculous. And then they cared that this was being fought out in front of the media.
Maybe what we should do is assign numbers to each seat and then have an open draw for the seats. Maybe councillors and parties should be allowed to bid for their seats in an open auction and give the proceeds to charity. Maybe they should just sit the feck down and get on with the job of running the county. Or would that be expecting too much?