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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Badges? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges!

Mags Glennon • 16 October 2005

Being Lord Mayor of Dublin is not too onerous a gig for the chosen one. In return for wearing the old golden chain for a year the incumbent is rewarded with a rent free city centre mansion and a brand new limo, as well numerous buckshee banquets and the best seats for sports and cultural events. The Lord Mayor of our capital city is not expected to carry out any 'work' more traumatic than snipping ribbons, laying foundation stones and planting the odd commemorative sapling. The quality of Lord Mayors varies of course. Despite not having any political power the more effective ones use the post to highlight worthy causes and charities, rather than for the promotion of self or party. On the other hand the city can also suffer an epidemic of public buffoonery, as exemplified by the reign of Bertie's Boy Wonder Royston Brady.

There is nothing too complex about getting your hands on this year of freebies, all that is required is that you be a City Councillor and get elected as Lord Mayor. But not by the 1.5 million citizens of Dublin, God forbid! Every so often a city councillor will suggest, somewhat timorously, that the Lord Mayor should be elected by popular mandate. Fianna Fail repeatedly puts the kibosh on any such proposition, knowing full well that if the common herd was allowed a say the party would never again hold the position. Instead the cabal of city councillors doll themselves up in ermine robes and select one of their number for the honour. By a 'you scratch my back' procedure a name is agreed, the actual vote casting being a mere formality. Throughout most of the past decade, for example, the Lord Mayorship was batted back and forth between Fianna Fail and Labour as these parties had a voting pact on the Corporation and were determined to keep all other snouts out of the trough.

One of the 'first citizens' to hit the limelight in this period was Councillor Dermot Lacey, a Labour Councillor for Dublin 4. Prior to taking up residence in the Mansion House Dermot's main political activity appears to have been frequent complaints in the local press on the mysterious moving post box of Donnybrook. This public amenity, the only one in the village, was known to be relocated at frequent intervals, a cause of great outrage and annoyance to Mr Lacey. This genteel representation of the concerns of the blue rinse brigade was not a great preparation for high municipal office, where poor Dermot was subjected to the regular embarrassment of being hounded by nasty and uncouth citizens from the 'rougher' suburbs who turned up to publicly berate him for voting in favour of the Bin Tax.

But Dermot survived the trauma and after his year was up returned to the relative anonymity of City Hall. He burst back on the political scene recently with a truly inspired proposal, one that could scarcely be credited to even the most megalomaniac Roman emperor or half crazed Russian Tsar. He has proposed that the City Council should bestow a 'golden badge' on each of the previous holders of the position of Lord Mayor, of which there are 30+ still in the land of the living. The badges would cost 5,000 euros a pop, totalling 150,000 in all. Being a member of the touchy feely Labour Party Dermot does not want to exclude anyone, so the tax payer is also being asked to stump up for 'silver badges' for the 'Lady Mayoresses', who are sort of spare mayors who attend events which are beneath the notice of the main man. The badges will be in the form of lapel or tie pins for the males and brooches for the ladies, which is nice.

Lacey has been joined in his crusade by Cllr Mary Freehill, another Labour worthy from the leafier parts of South Dublin. Mary's year as Mayor is perhaps best remembered for her 'Orange Lil' proposal that the Orange Order should march down Dawson Street to mark the foundation of the sectarian gang there, by a bunch of aristocratic war criminals, in 1798. Freehill has managed to steer the badges proposal through the City Council's 'Protocol and Selection Committee', whatever that may be. However at least Freehill managed to attend these meetings, her absence being noticeable over the years from meetings where she would have to take a stand on the Bin Tax. To add insult to injury the councillors are also demanding up to 1,000 euros to fund a booze up to 'launch' these badges. If this takes place in the Mansion House bar perhaps the attendees will take a peep into the Oak Room, where all ex-Mayors are already honoured with walls of makey-up heraldic crests to mark their years in office.

The only political voice raised against the proposal, so far, has been that of Killian Forde, a young Sinn Fein councillor, who correctly described the whole charade as 'self serving pompous nonsense'. Lacey's patronising response to Forde's criticism was to describe his fellow councillor as 'childish', while Freehill went all precious about her hard years of unpaid toil serving the people of Dublin. Since the role of councillors is to represent the views and concerns of their constituents it would be interesting if the Labour councillors could explain to us mere taxpayers who lobbied them to put forward this proposal. Otherwise us uncharitable cynics might believe that that the notion sprang fully formed from their own sense of self aggrandisement, rather like the legendary emperor with the invisible golden robes.

In the same week as Labour's proposal for the further edification of it's members by draping them like Christmas trees hit the public prints, so too did a couple of revealing reports on the reality of how 'Celtic Tiger' treats some of it's most vulnerable citizens. The Combat Poverty Agency 2005 report stated that 160,000 children in Ireland live in consistent poverty, while a study from the children's charity Barnardos put the figure at one in seven. This definition of consistent poverty relates to children who do not have access to basics such as one substantial meal a day, a warm winter coat and adequate home heating. A Barnardos spokesperson explained that 'What poverty means in reality is that one in seven children in Ireland goes to bed without having had a substantial meal. It means that kids are cold in bed at night because there is no heating in their house, or if there is, their parents cannot afford to turn it on. This is the cold hard reality of the lives of one in seven children in this country today, and this is a country which has pledged to cherish all the children of the nation equally.'

It is worth reflecting that this pledge, so often invoked that it is now a pious cliché, first appeared in the Proclamation of the Republic in 1916, much of it written by James Connolly. Connolly himself was a founder of the Labour Party and ran, unsuccessfully, for the position of councillor in Dublin. Somehow I don't think awarding himself gold medals would have been top of his agenda sheet in City Hall.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

23 October 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Badges? We Don't Need No Stinkin Badges
Mags Glennon

A Long Way Down
Anthony McIntyre

A Party of Their Own
Mick Hall

Reid's Sectarian Slur
Eamon McCann

Repeal Anti-Catholic Section of Act of Settlement 1701
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Nicola McCartney & the Facts About Irish History
Seaghán Ó Murchu

Usual Suspects
Anthony McIntyre

Socialism in Ireland
Francis McDonnell

Turning "Smoke ban" thing into ANTI-DIOXIN movement
John Jonik

From the Classroom to the Grave
Anthony McIntyre

Yet More Voices Against Censorship
Davy Carlin

The Death Fast Enters its 6th Year
Tayad Committee

Setting Up Abbas
Jeff Halper

6 October 2005

A Bleak Future
Anthony McIntyre

Provos Censor de Chastelain in Bid to Lie About Guns
Tom Luby

Taking Politics Out of the Gun
Brendan O'Neill

Sinn Fein - The Shark's Party
Mick Hall

Live From Hollywood: The IRA Disarms
Harry Browne

Show Us the Money
Dr John Coulter

Doris Dead
Anthony McIntyre

Whatever Happened to... 'er, You Know... Whatshisname?
Tom Luby

The Dirty War Goes On
George Young

Reject All British Institutions
Kevin Murphy

Capitalism Vs Socialism
Liam O Ruairc

Apology to Dr Dion Dennis and CTheory website
Carrie Twomey



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