DCC Notes

Herbert Park, Autumn

Ireland’s unemployment rate stands at 13.4%. Youth unemployment is 30%. 415,300 people are on the Dole. 50,900 people have emigrated in the past year – a majority between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Household bills are going up. The cost of living is up. Personal debt is up. Water charges are on the way up. Economic growth has flat-lined. Despite all this, Labour Cllr. Mary Freehill decided a discussion about cutting grass at Herbert Park was more important at the recent Council meeting.

“How would they make a decision to cut the grass?” Cllr. Freehill asked at the Dublin South East Area Council meeting. “They (meaning his workers) would be provided with a lawnmower,” replied a Council official. This debate went on for 40 minutes, bringing this observer close to insanity.

Fine Gael Cllr. Paddy McCartan kicked the meeting off in style by shouting, “There’s nobody here,” only to be countered by Labour Cllr. Dermot Lacey with, “Ah sure, we are, we’ll continue to serve the people.”

With that, the Council heard a presentation on the proposed re-development of Crampton Buildings in the heart of Temple Bar. A Council official laid out a regeneration of the court, which right now, is only in the design and consultation phase. The court, which has been run down for some time, is set to get new landscaping and car parks. “People are stealing tiles from the roof,” said Independent Cllr. Mannix Flynn when the discussion ended. Flynn’s interjections were quite spontaneous at times; he’d nod and move a lot. Sometimes he’d take a long walk to fetch a few glasses of water, knocking them back like there was no tomorrow.

The Council discussed an ongoing debate concerning the installation of fitness equipment along Sandymount Strand. The equipment, which is being donated to the Council by an unknown party, will give people a chance to get physical; similar instruments are available along the Clontarf coastline. The Council welcomed the initiative, in broad terms, but some Councillors, such as Fine Gael’s Kieran Binchy were against the idea. “I’ve never seen people use the ones that were put out in Clontarf,” he said afterwards. “Irish people don’t like exercising in public. It’s all very trendy to say ‘we’re putting in exercising equipment’ but I’ve not seen any evidence that people actually want it.” Fianna Fail Cllr. Jim O’Callaghan welcomed the plan but cautioned, “If you put it down, you need to maintain it.”

The Council touched on an “ugly monstrosity” which sits outside City Hall, disguised as a flagpole holder/traffic diverter. The topic triggered a passionate debate amongst the Councillors who had a bone to pick with Council officials who allegedly make important decisions, despite the elected representatives’ objections. “I am fed up to my teeth with Council officials, either we have a democratic system or not,” said Cllr. Lacey.

The next issue was supposed to be more simple, the planting of a tree for former Fine Gael Cllr. and Lord Mayor Joe Doyle. Cllr. Lacey stipulated that he had campaigned for several trees to be planted in Herbert Park – with the idea being that a new tree would be planted when a new Councillor got elected. Due to red tape, or just an unwillingness to get it done, the Council had failed to move ahead. They failed to move ahead even when Councillors offered to pay for the trees themselves. “After 20 years on this Council, I’m really becoming frustrated. Officials do what officials want,” said Cllr. Lacey. Shortly after, his tone changed when he said, “I really think we’re going to get it done, I’ve had a very successful meeting with the (City) Manager subsequent to the meeting and I think my strong words were probably productive.” Cllr. Flynn supported Lacey’s calls for a resolution to the tree debate in Herbert Park. “Nothing like a cup of tea and a biscuit in a park,” he said.

By Liam Cahill