Councilors were packed tighter than marshmallows in a Lucky Charms box at the Dublin city council chamber. And as with any group of Irishmen this size, things quickly got heated.
The subject was innocent enough: a tame discussion about the maternity hospital. But suddenly, Councilor Paddy Bourke stared down Lord Mayor Brendan Carr.
“On a point of order, I think it would be safer if the members of the board left the room–and that includes yourself,” he demanded.
Lord Mayor Carr, a member of the hospital’s board, pointed his pen defensively. “There’s a lot of us on different boards around the city. And no one’s ever asked to leave the chamber.”
But he dialed back his annoyance and gestured around the room. “I’ll leave that up to the council to make the decision.”
“I don’t think we should create a precedent of the people who are best informed having to leave,” argued Councilor Rebecca Moynihan in disbelief. “Otherwise, we should resign from all the boards. I don’t think that you should leave, Lord Mayor.”
Another councilor began yelling for a point of order. Carr glared at him, warning, “there’s another councilor before you.”
As the belligerent councilor persisted, the Lord Mayor sharply cut him off. “I chair the meeting!”
At this point, the clearly un-amused Councilor Daithí Doolan was all but ready to smother this ruckus and head to the pub.
“There’s certain elements in this chamber tonight trying to gag ourselves and straightjacket ourselves. It’s ridiculous,” he groused. “We’re adults. If people want to leave the chamber, feel free to leave. I trust councilors to make the right decision.”
Having gauged the temperature of the room and the purity of his intentions, the Lord Mayor reached his decision. “I have absolutely no conflict of interest. I don’t intend to leave the chamber.”
After this wee bit o’ discord, I reasoned that the meeting would be smoother than a field of four-leaf clovers from here on out.
I thought wrong.
“There was a challenge that came in from a member of the public,” Carr announced three hours into the meeting, referring to a citizen complaint, “and we have to try to resolve it.”
He glanced up at the clock. “We’re now agreeing to suspend the meeting and I’ll ask everyone who’s a member of the Protocol [Committee] to meet and come back.”
THAT sent councilors into a frenzy.
“Point of order! Are YOU telling ME we’re about to break up this meeting,” Councilor Kieran Binchy hollered into the microphone, his voice rising throughout the rant, “in order to hold a separate meeting so the Protocol Committee can make decisions in PRIVATE?!”
Other councilors nodded and grunted in support. Now I know where the term “Fightin’ Irish” comes from.
“You cannot convene a meeting right now!” Binchy exclaimed with wild eyes.
“There was an issue that came in from the public,” the Lord Mayor patiently explained. “We were then given legal advice that the Protocol Committee should meet–please sit in your seats.”
Carr held up his hand while pleading for councilors to listen–with some difficulty. “Someone show a bit of respect somewhere!”
“This is ridiculous,” Councilor Binchy wailed as Carr opened the voting machine. “This isn’t the way to do business!”
Unfortunately for him, three-quarters of councilors sided with their Lord Mayor. The meeting was recessed.