Irish politicians have for years managed to convince the public that they have some sort of power to get things done by their local council.
It’s a lie.
Members of the Dáil have no authority whatsoever in relation to work carried out by local councils. None. They have no role in the councils, no budget, no authority and no status. If a politician tells you he got your road fixed, he’s lying. All he did was look it up in the council’s list of planned work and wait until the work was done before claiming credit for it.
In most towns, people believe the Mayor is the boss of the council.
This is false. Mayors are just elected councillors like all the rest, with a few minor procedural responsibilities but no executive power whatever. They have no budget, no authority and no staff. Nobody reports to them. As often as not, they can barely read and write, never mind direct some complex building work.
A Mayor is just a person who chairs council meetings, signs the minutes and freezes their arse off on the St Patrick’s Day viewing stand, nothing more, apart from the dubious authority to extend the tenure of a city or county manager, which can lead to a certain conflict of interest.
Small though the power of a mayor might be, the elected councillors have no power at all, and this is for a very good reason: most of them are idiots. Here in Limerick, you could get your cat elected if you bribed enough drunks to vote for him, and your cat would probably do a better job than some of the illiterate bozos we have slobbering on the benches of the council chamber.
The Irish political establishment doesn’t like independence. It doesn’t like devolution of power from the centre, unlike the European municipality model, and it’s no accident that our local councils are populated by half-wits. That’s the way the government likes it.
Local authorities were emasculated years ago by the imposition of city and county managers who exercise almost all the power. They answer to nobody except the minister for the environment. They are, in fact, the visible face of central government at local level.
While a TD might have some personal relationships at a senior level in a local authority, they have no formal role whatsoever, and for the most part are not permitted to go beyond the front counter. If you wanted a favour done, you’d be far better advised to make friends with the janitor who’s probably on good terms with staff at all levels.
Next time a councillor or a TD tells you they can get something done by the council, call them a liar and slam the door in their face.