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Bradley Bytes

Politics – Shush! The great unwashed will hear you

Dara Bradley

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Councillor Mike Cubbard - it's been a good week for him

Curtailing debate in a democracy is dangerous.

That the supposed bastion of local democracy – Galway City Council – is the one shutting down debate is even more worrying.

City Councillors were gagged at the most recent meeting when they were supposed to discuss the Local Property Tax (LPT).

No can do, they were told by officials. Elected members can’t be discussing LPT because there is a public consultation underway and by talking about it, they might prejudice what the rest of us think about it.

The stench of bulls**t in the Council chamber was unbearable when that line was trotted out by officials. It’s so ludicrous you couldn’t make it up.

Do they actually think anything that’s said at City Hall about LPT is going to make homeowners any more or less amenable to paying it?

The Council used to be derided as a talking shop – but now its members aren’t even allowed talk.

Worse still, the Gombeens in the ruling pact, who later this year on the advice of officials are going to vote down any attempt by Sinn Féin to lower the property tax by 15%, are the same ones who voted against an attempt by the unlikely alliance of Catherine Connolly (Ind) and Michael John Crowe (FF) to proceed with the debate.

The LPT cheerleaders in Fine Gael, Labour and former PDs are democrats when it suits them. They stay schtum when it doesn’t . . . And when the chief executive tells them to. That’s democracy, folks, Galway-schtyle!

Also in Bradley Bytes in this week’s Sentinel

  • Tir gan teanga
  • Politicians aren’t all the same
  • Fidelma and the bubbly

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CITY TRIBUNE

Hopes mediation plan will end boycott of Council committees

Enda Cunningham

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Independent mediation is required to resolve simmering rows in two Local Authority committees that debate planning and transport policy.

Community members of the two Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) are so peed-off, they’ve boycotted them.

It’s a tactic that backfired because the SPCs effectively ignored the boycott and carried on as normal without them!

Now, efforts are afoot to ‘bang heads together’ to end the stand-off and bring some normality to these committees, which are important for local democracy, and for giving communities a voice and input into policy. But there are so many egos involved, it is no easy task.

Here’s the truncated lowdown. All five City Council SPCs have eight Councillors and four unelected reps, including two from Galway City Community Network (GCCN), and two others, including from trade unions or business lobby groups.

Four GCCN reps withdrew from the Planning SPC and Transport SPC, chaired by Cllrs Peter Keane and Eddie Hoare. They are: Shane Foran, Derrick Hambleton, Brendan Mulligan and Paul O’Donnell. GCCN reps remained on the other three SPCs.

The Famous Four ‘boycotters’ have various gripes; among them how the SPCs, which meet every quarter, conduct their business.

“It’s the mushroom approach, fed sh*t and kept in the dark,” said a source close to the Feisty Four.

The fear is that the ‘agenda is being controlled’ by the City Council’s Directors of Services, and the Chief Executive. Certain topics aren’t discussed at SPC because they’re ‘executive’ functions.

Management disputes this; nay, they recoil in horror at the mere thought that they’re the problem. Sure, aren’t SPCs councillor-led; Directors merely facilitate them.

Councillors don’t exactly like GCCN reps telling them how to run SPCs. They feel that the Famous Four are using the SPCs to push ‘agendas’.

“They’re trying to dismantle the Galway Transportation Strategy; they’re trying to re-write it. They want to take out the Galway Outer Ring Road from the strategy, and to insert a toy train or whatever it is they’re looking for,” growled one.

This, too, is disputed; the reps may be members of An Taisce, or Galway Cycling Campaign but insist they are articulating the views of GCCN and not their own organisations.

Councillors aren’t so sure. “Councillors are elected. Whether you like us or not, we have a mandate and were voted in by the people. We can vote to change policy, such as on the Galway City Development Plan. These bucks can’t. If they want to influence policy let them put their f**king faces up on posters and stand for election,” snorted another.

The Feisty Four flagged their concerns last June. Nothing happened. In October, they threatened a withdrawal. They were ignored. The November SPCs were boycotted.

CE Brendan McGrath proposed a ‘Can we not all just get along?’ solution of mediation. The Famous Four were invited back without prejudice, until a mediator could be appointed. They agreed. But a ‘breakdown in communication’ between the CE and secretariat, meant that two GCCN members were not sent the minutes of meetings they boycotted, or a Zoom link to a virtual SPC meeting in February. The boycotters were – albeit inadvertently – locked out of the meeting, and felt ‘snubbed’. That mistake wasn’t repeated for the Transport SPC of Wednesday of this week and GCCN members attended without prejudice. Best of luck to the independent mediator resolving this one!

(Photo: Derrick Hambleton, one of Galway City Community Network’s (GCCN) representatives on the City Council’s Strategic Policy Committees. He and three other GCCN reps withdrew from the Planning SPC and Transport SPC, feeling they were receiving ‘the mushroom’ treatment).
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

A catch-22 for Galway City Council on cycling!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

One excuse often trotted out for not investing in infrastructure to encourage more cycling and walking in Galway City is lack of funding.

Then, when money isn’t the issue, and can no longer be used as cover for inaction – the Government is literally firing Euro notes at sustainable transport to placate the Greens – other excuses are cited.

One such justification that’s sometimes given for maintaining the status quo, is that there are insufficient specialist staff at City Hall to use those bags of money to draw up the necessary plans for things like the proposed Bearna Greenway.

Now, it seems, that line of response has been robbed, too.

Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly was first to announce that Government had committed to allocating up to 22 extra staff to the City Council to design walking and cycling facilities.

Will the local authority apply to get those extra workers? Perhaps they will, which would be great. Or perhaps there’ll be a new barrier put in the way of progress.

Wait for the ‘skills shortage’ and ‘we can’t source the engineers’ argument. Or maybe it’ll be the fault of Health and Safety, which can be blamed for just about anything; the mere mention of it can turn idealists’ hopes and dreams to dust.

Or how about Health and Safety’s annoying cousin, GDPR; yes, good old data protection is a bullet-proof defence for conservative public servants to do nothing.

Another favourite is the ‘we can’t build a greenway because it’ll interfere with special areas of conservation’. Remember that old chestnut? That’s a particularly devious checkmate move to thwart environmentalists’ enthusiasm for getting above their station.

If all that fails, they could always blame Covid-19 – nobody can argue against that, sure.

In fairness, some progress is being made in Galway. But until the system – ie, the politicians and management in local government – actually wants to embrace change, real change, then there will always be an excuse not to transform public transport and promote cycling and walking as viable alternatives to private cars in this city.

(Photo: Senator Pauline O’Reilly, who announced the Council’s 22 extra staff to design cycling and walking facilities).
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Bertie – fly in ointment for Dev Óg’s Áras bid!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Éamon Ó Cuív is four times more likely to become the next President of Ireland than he is to replace Micheál Martin as Fianna Fáil leader.

Fianna Fáil’s finest is sixth favourite with the bookies to take over from his former Galway West constituency rival, Michael D Higgins, in Áras an Uachtaráin.

At 12/1, the bookmakers reckon the Corr na Móna man has a decent shot at the Park.

And yet Dev Óg, grandson of Éamon de Valera, is a no-hoper in the race to be the next leader of the Soldiers of Destiny, with bookies quoting 50/1 for Ó Cuív to take over the reins when Martin either steps aside or is taken out.

Éamó has no appetite to lead the party his grandfather founded; its parliamentary party – Senators and TDs – has long outgrown him, even if he still commands huge respect among grassroots who are more in tune with his social conservatism.

But even still, surely he has more of a chance of being its leader than say, Galway East TD, Anne Rabbitte who is priced at 40/1 to take over from Martin, or James Browne – exactly, who? – who is a, err, snip at 33/1?

Meanwhile, five are short-listed ahead of Dev Óg in the race to succeed Michael D: Mairéad McGuinness (7/2), Fergus Finlay (6/1), Emily O’Reilly and John Finucane and Ruairí Quinn (both 11/1).

Interestingly, Éamó has as much a chance as RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan, who is also 12/1.

To get on the ticket, it’s likely Dev Óg will need approval from the Fianna Fáil party. And for that there’ll be competition. The Soldiers of Destiny decided not to fight the most recent campaign, with private polling telling them Micky D couldn’t be beaten, and so they will almost certainly back a candidate in 2025.

Dev Óg, according to the bookies, is the FF frontrunner, but lurking with intent is former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Facilitated by an amnesic and/or forgiving national media, the Bert has undergone something of a revival of late and his views on Brexit have been sought by RTÉ and others.

Further indication that the Teflon Taoiseach is interested in the Áras came last week with confirmation in the Sunday Times that he’d sent a letter of congratulations to his long-time nemesis Micheál Martin upon the latter’s elevation to the office of Taoiseach. The Bert boomerang could scupper Éamó.
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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