Councillors flush the chain on themselves

Margaret Tynan, one of our great orators

IT IS not at all surprising.

Everywhere you look you will spot a county councillor.

There is no need for hints as to what’s going on.

The lead-up has started to local elections, a time when a group of mostly well-meaning men and women forage for votes.

Like their big brothers and sisters in the Seanad and Dáil, these guys and girls will stop at nothing to ensure that their bums will be back on seats.

To be fair, that’s what politicians’ do. If any of us, God forbid, were in politics we would do the very same.

We would knock at doors, be seen at parish functions and community events, wear high viz jackets at funerals and festivals and cosy up to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Local councilors can have local clout.

If a residents’ committee wants a few tins of paint to brighten up alfresco seats, they may call on a councillor, regardless of political party allegiance.

For voluntary groups it doesn’t matter what party a man or woman belongs to, once he or she delivers.

He or she who provides will be promised local votes.

For as long as he or she adhere to unwritten contract, all should be hunky dory.

A tin of gloss for a bundle of votes.

Everyone is sucking diesel.

If the time comes when there is no paint, someone else will be courted and rewarded.

That is how ruthless communities and hard-working leaders have become.

The volunteers  have learned from the best, playing politicians at their own game.

There was a time when local politics was part of the fabric of our city.

We make a long journey back half a century plus ago to when Fanny Treacy, née Ryan, a noted public orator with no chums in politics, was aided and abetted by her husband Danny.

Danny was a distinguished man who wore a hat, had a latch key pinned to the lapel of his fawn overcoat and carried a megaphone for his nearest and dearest to address locals from a podium, aka butter box.

Fanny was a politician’s nightmare. With a tongue as sharp as a razor she would strip a councillor faster than a shoal of piranha would bare a victim.

Fanny may never have contested a local election. If she did she didn’t cut the muster.

But she was always a thorn in the side of every councilor on the then Kilkenny Corporation.

She was a brilliant character, tailor-made for Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

She regularly wooed crowds of circa 300 who leaned on her every word at gatherings on our Parade.

She once told listeners that newly elected councillors reminded her of a crate of bananas.

“They go in green, but they soon turn yellow,” she barked.

Much has changed since those days. The wheeling and dealing of politics may be similar but colourful characters are no more.

The only place you will find the latter is in a local cemetery or graveyard.

Winding the clock of politics a closer to the present day we remember the great councillors of a golden era who provided lively entertainment, lots of hard work and passion too at our City Hall, then the fulcrum of urban life.

Meetings were often superb oratorical evenings thanks to the immense contributions of hugely talented Kieran Crotty, Mick McGuinness, Margaret Tynan, Tommy Martin, Tommy Delaney, John Holohan, Carmel Boyd, Mick Lanigan and Seamus Pattison.

Margaret Tynan was a favourite, admired for her way with words and special delivery

There were others, all strong people in their own right, fighting their corners but united for our city.

We had a great team that donned jerseys of varying hues but  showed pride in a united front, never side stepping a challenge when the black and amber called.

Today we don’t have a corporation, a forum for city discussion.

People no longer take any great interest in what is happening at arish pump level.

Phil Hogan made sure of the latter before he headed for Europe.

In the past we knew that our No. 1 Citizen was a born, bred and buttered Kilkenny man or woman or at least a son or daughter of somewhere who had pitched his or her tent in our city.

Last year we had the excellent  Michael Doyle,The Rower, Inistioge as Mayor and now we have Peter ‘Chap’ Cleere, Skeoughvosteen who could well rise to Chap the TD.

No disrespect to either, both are sound, good lads proud to fly a Kilkenny Flag.

But flying a Kilkenny City flag is a horse of a different colour.  A son or daughter of our city would know every nook and cranny here and that would be a huge advantage.

We are constantly reminded that all politics is local and in that respect the people of our city love to see neighbours’ children wearing a chain of office.

The backside had fallen out of Mayoral Elections long before Big Phil struck.

Election evenings, once hugely interesting as the hot seat was contested with vigor, often packed City Hall.

The intrigue of a proper Mayoral Election was palpable.

Political pacts put an end to that. In essence local councillors flushed the chain on themselves.

Poorly attended elections followed as there was no cat to let out of the bag.

Can we bring back the good old days when urban councillors batted for our city and rural public representatives fought for rustic Kilkenny.

We accept that councilors do their utmost when they wear any chain.

But if someone has spent his or life in a particular bailiwick then his or her passionate preference would be for that corner of Mother Earth.

Perhaps a good idea would be to elect a Mayor from amongst our citizens.

Throw down the gauntlet to city residents and feck politics to one side.

That could be a catalyst for the return of our Corporation, oft criticized, but yet a vital organ of democracy.

Michael Doyle for county council chair, Chap Cleere for Teachta Dála and a modern day Fanny or Danny for Mayor of Kilkenny City?

Next year?