The heads above the parapet

In a hundred days from now, most of us will go to the polls to elect new city and county councillors and new MEPs. The race for the European seat used to be a lot more interesting when the constituency was merely the West...now it goes from Rossaveal to somewhere near the Mull of Kintyre. There is never any shortage of candidates for the European gig...as political posts go, they are the most desired. If I ever come back in the next life as a politician, you’ll find me in Brussels or Strasbourg, eating starters instead of main courses to keep the pounds down.

It’s not so easy to find takers for the ticket on the councillor level and this is regrettable, because it is here you find the academy for future TDs and Senators and Ministers. At that level, you learn how to grease the wheels, to press the fatted damp hand, uttering ‘sorry for your troubles,’ with a tear-stained hand and cheese sandwich that the crowd from next door made. It is here, you learn to growl and roar, to fight your corner. To do your bit for the place where you came from, to help those among who you live and work.

There is really no overestimating the benefit to a community of a good local councillor. To those who have opted to run again, I wish them all the best and hail their bravado. To those who are stepping down after a period or more in the chambers, I thank them for their service and wish them well too.

As local hacks, the city and county council beat is our bread and butter. It is our European Parliament; indeed every hack worth their salt has cut their teeth on thousands of hours of tedious meetings on matters of great import to the locality. When the makeup of these chambers changes, it is a big deal.

In the main though, there has not been the turnover of personnel that you would normally see in other spheres. And the issue has become even more dominant in recent times with the advent of increased access 24/7 to your councillor.

I spoke to some friends of mine over the past few weeks who had been approached to run in the local elections. In their respective communities, they are regarded, energetic, at the heart of things. Their eye is on the ball; they straddle different demographics and have accumulated lifetimes of wisdom.

To me, their suitability to run for the councils seemed a no-brainer. They are people who are used to giving; to offer up their time and effort for the benefit of their communities. Moving closer to the heart of power seemed like the obvious next progression. Their skills in this regard were also recognised by various political groupings who had promised them the logistical support needed to deal with the busy-ness of being a councillor.

However, both of them decided not to do it...what deterred my two friends from running was the fear of the hatred and bile that would be drawn down on them and their families when they would enter the arena of public life. Their families and themselves and their appearance, their gender, their orientation, their very being would become fair game for the trolls who emboldened by the inaction of the big social media platforms, like nothing else but to hide behind the QWERTY and fire scud missiles through offensive words.

It is sad that some good people are being deterred from public office...to those who are aware of this and who still put their heads above the parapet, fair play. It ought not be like this though...

 

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