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OPINION: Political nonsense has no boundaries

August 21st, 2017 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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YEAH, sure, politicians have their boundaries but political nonsense has no boundaries, as any observer of the acrimonious controversy surrounding the proposed extension to Cork city limits well knows!

Here, for example, are some of the wacko responses from county councillors who oppose the Mackinnon Report, a formal study  that recommends enlarging the scope of the city boundary so as to take in ‘rural' areas such as Cork Airport, Little Island, Carrigtwohill and Ballincollig.

The criticism goes something like this: ‘if it happened under British rule there would have been a revolution.' It is ‘an extreme piece of arrogance,'  a ‘land grab,' a ‘cash grab,'  a ‘cobbled together work of fiction' that signals ‘goodbye to Cork County Council.' 

New boundaries will lead to ‘the death of towns and villages in West Cork.' And the worst insult of all: the Corpo does not have the expertise to run ‘an expanded city' (even though it has been in the business since the year 1185).

Under the proposals, major towns such as Cobh and Carrigaline are likely to remain under County Council control, as well as the industrial and pharmaceutical zone at Ringaskiddy. Also, an annual €40 million compensation package will be paid by Cork City Council over the next 10 years to compensate the County for the loss of revenue. 

But that's not cutting much ice!

 

Fall and rise

Oddly enough, the howls of indignation are not being replicated by ordinary people. The man in the street couldn't care less as to who runs the two local authorities. 

All that citizens want are better public facilities and a bigger role in decision-making.

Indeed, at the heart of the matter and determining the critical tone is the fear that City Hall will enjoy an increase in public representatives whereas County Hall could suffer a decrease. In other words, the real point of issue is the risk to the auld Council seat and, with it, the perks, payments and exes!

It's an apprehension that has been dealt with by Professor Tony Bovaird in his review of the MacKinnon report. He points out that, in the event of changes to the city and county boundaries, the number of councillors will have to be increased in order to deal with what he terms ‘highly-activated citizen engagement and service user co-production.'

Interesting too that the Little Island Business Association does not seem perturbed as to whether Cork city or Cork county is responsible for the area's burgeoning industrial and commercial sector. What focuses minds in that neck of the woods is the appalling road structure into and within Little Island, the huge traffic jams at peak times and the hellish conditions created for residents who frequently find themselves trapped in their homes because of traffic congestion.

But although the situation is intolerable, Cork County Council has no plan for immediate action other than a sometime-in-the-future transportation study  – a response so ineffectual that it does not engender an iota of confidence.

Indeed, the failure of the Council to address the Little Island road debacle focuses attention on the relevance of local authority meetings where the impression sometimes is given that politicos live in cloud cuckoo land.

 

Comic material

Some years ago, a UCC lecturer described an average Council meeting in terms that were not only shocking but would have provided an aspiring comedian with material for an Opera House farce: councillors dashing in and out of the chamber, some just signing the attendance register and rapidly leaving; mobile phones going off, councillors reading newspapers, ‘others wandering about, passing comments, making jokes, paying no respect to whoever had the floor, and pulling  faces'!

Within such a context, the humorous ‘take' that our man in Dinty's has on the country versus city controversy is particularly relevant: ‘Boundaries aren't all bad,' he said. ‘That's why there are walls around lunatic asylums!'

 

Good counsel

Amazing the advice that Blueshirts and Soldiers of Destiny are offering Sinn Féin. First there was Micheál Martin who accused Republicans of abdicating responsibility to the people of Ireland by refusing to take their seats at Westminster. He said it was ‘totally illogical for Sinn Féin, given that Brexit was the single greatest issue facing our generation.'

We all sniggered, of course, at the sight of Martin as counsellor and confidant to people he once considered to be the pariahs of Irish politics! 

He was followed by Fine Gael's Senator Colm Burke, an even more unlikely tutor. He, too, wanted to take

part in the ‘advising' lark.

Burke recommended that SF should hold a special convention to end ‘the wasteful, anachronistic policy of abstention.' He argued that since the House of Commons was good enough for Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stuart Parnell and John Redmond, it was good enough for the Adams gang.

Of course, neither Martin nor Burke have Sinn Féin's interest at heart, a fact recognised by Mary Lou McDonald who told Martin, that her party would not take lectures from him. ‘Sinn Féin represents the Nationalist and Republican people in the North of our country. Fianna Fáil doesn't even attempt to represent people there, so Micheál Martin either should put up or shut up,' she primly said.

The party didn't bother responding to Burke.

The facts of the matter are that 87% of respondents in a recent poll supported an abstention policy that dates back a hundred years, to 1917, when the party's first MP was elected. Since then, Sinn Féin has considered the parliamentary oath under which MPs must swear allegiance to the Queen as head of state to be objectionable.

It's also significant that SF increased its representation in Westminster to seven seats, which indicates that its policy on abstention is endorsed by voters.

 

Gissa job!

The seven-strong Irish Labour Party (remember them?) continues to be all at sea, thanks to leader Brendan Howlin. Last April, he declared the party would run independently at the next election and he ruled out any pre-vote pact with Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Sinn Féin. 

Of course, commanding an outfit that has the backbone of a chocolate éclair is not easy, so he later added that Labour would talk to ‘everybody,' including Sinn Féin, even though (according to Howlin) ‘whatever Gerry Adams says, clearly has or had a military dimension.'

By last month nobody – not even the Irish Housewives Association – had responded to his alluring invitation. This, in turn, led to onion-induced tears among cynical commentators.

Nonetheless, Howlin deserves credit for the many assurances he has given the Irish people. After all, a promising young man should go into politics so that he can go on promising for the rest of his life! Which is what Howlin did!

 

A joke to finish 

If stupidity goes to forty dollars a barrel, Archon will seek drilling rights to Trump's head!

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