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From Belmullet to Ballymagash

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

BALLYMAGASH eat your heart out. It’s no wonder the newly elected chairman of Westport-Belmullet Municipal District, Cllr Christy Hyland intoned the legacy of that 1970s RTÉ skit on politics on more than one occasion at the inaugural meeting of the newly aligned district.
Back in those dark days it might have been the Minister for Hardship, Liam Cosgrave, who was representing the Fine Gael–Labour coalition, but here in the bogs of Mayo it was the Councillor for Ravaged Rural Communities, Gerry Coyle, who was calling a spade a spade about the done deal between the Soldiers of Destiny and the sole Independent – a former Blueshirt,  mind you – over the right to the Chiefdom of Westport and its Far-flung Dominions.  
The whole sorry saga (or should that be farce?) started when it emerged that Erris new-boy-on-the-block Cllr Seán Carey supported Covie Cllr Brendan Mulroy to anoint co-Covie Cllr Christy Hyland as Westport-Belmullet MD cathaoirleach.
Well, Cllr Coyle was inconsolable. (Somebody with a kind heart even mentioned tissues.)   
How could Carey betray his own people? Hadn’t he promised that his was the politics of change above in the naoínra in Ballycroy during the election campaign?
“They [Westport] have the chairmanship of the council. They have Minister Ring. I thought your campaign said ‘Carey Votes for Change’,” quipped Coyle.
Unsurprisingly, Cllr Brendan Mulroy responded.
“I’ve never heard of such shambolic politics in my life. We’ve come in here being accused of having Minister Ring here in the town, and I’ve taken flak over the last week about being cathaoirleach of the council…. What is your hatred of Westport, Gerry?”
“There is enough power in one place at one time,” Cllr Coyle said. Addressing Cllr Carey directly, he then implored: “The minister is here, the cathaoirleach is here, Seán.”

Hairy bacon and buttermilk
WELL, goddamit, maybe Gerry is right!
Maybe it’s time the people of Westport went back to basics, started to acknowledge the real heritage of their forefathers. They could start by eating their dinner in the middle of the day again. Praties and freshly churned  buttermilk with a thick slice of hairy bacon never harmed anyone. A return to a drop of the crathur straight from a poitín still in an Erris bog instead of all these gins and tonics in glasses big enough to wash your feet and with more foliage added than above in the National Botanic Gardens.       
On a serious note though, if this meeting was representative of what ‘Better Local Government’ is meant to achieve, all those members of the public who, in good faith, exercised their franchise on Friday, May 24, last, should now write to those successful candidates they put their trust in and say: “Stop wasting our time and our money bickering over nothing and playing politics for the sake of it. This is not why we voted for you.”
The bottom-line is that Fianna Fáil is in control of the county council. They are going to divvy out all the chains and chairmanships to either their own or those who promise support. And as Achill’s Cllr Paul McNamara said, if Fine Gael was in power they would be doing exactly the same thing.  
So, after lots of huffing and puffing Seán Carey was elected leas-cathaoirleach.
This was followed by some box-ticking regarding housing and roads by council executives who have an amazing ability to remain poker-faced no matter how hot the temperature becomes throughout proceedings.
One pithy comment in the entire two-hour meeting stands out. It was after Fine Gael Cllr Peter Flynn wished Cathaoirleach Hyland well and noted his outline of the ongoing important projects in the county but argued that the monies for these projects was mainly coming from central government.
“We need to find a better way of spending the council budget of €140 million. Really we need to be absolutely clear what the role of the County Council is.”
Exactly. We the citizens of Mayo do too. Do the job we elected you for, councillors.