Wednesday 11 December 2019

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Cork Independent

INDOpinion

We need the politics of action and hope

Wednesday, 10th April, 2019 4:48pm

For me, the politics of ‘meh’ must come to an end.

Many people will frown at this word and wonder what I mean by it. Others will simply dismiss it as another political candidate trying to make a name for themselves in the crowded field for elected office. I believe that it can no longer be acceptable for officials to shrug their shoulders.

City Hall and city councillors must be judged on action. On too many issues we are hearing excuses to not proceed with new ideas. Whether it is segregated cycle lanes or recyclable bins on the street, it doesn't matter. If we are not to change the way we do things in the public forum and the City Hall, then there will never be change in this city.

‘And this is the year for change!’ We hear that every election time. Whether it’s the local, general, presidential election or at your local AGM. Now is the time for change. But what does change mean really in terms of Cork city and the years ahead?

Many people are sick and tired hearing about the changes planned for under the expansion of the city boundary. Others will never have heard of it and may never pay attention to the fact it is happening until after it is done, if at all.

What we can learn from change is that it happens - whether it be slow or fast, hopeful or destructive. Change is inevitable.

There are those who will wish to preserve the status quo to defend their own realms of importance but at one point or another in their lives, change had to occur to bring them to where they are now.

Doors will be knocked and letterboxes tested to their limit in the weeks ahead as the 24 May deadline for candidates approaches. These candidates will form the democratic bedrock of the new expanded councils. We cannot continue with a shrug of the shoulders to suggestions and advancements from the people's representatives.

There are those who will point to the recent social advances in Ireland through marriage equality and the removal of the Eighth Amendment as examples of forward moving change in this country but in reality, the change on those two issues was based on decades of work by committed individuals.

That is what Cork needs now. Committed individuals banding together across political lines with a vision to deliver change to the city and its people, not the corporate interests.

There are those who will decry the talk of change. The talk of doing things differently. The talk of hope. Hope can be a dangerous thing. It can break a person’s resolve. It can break the resolve of a city, of a nation.

Without hope though, what use have we for a city? Are we content to live in a city that sees boardrooms control our destiny? Or do we yearn for a change to some different vision? One where the people’s will is implemented.

That will can be as simple as the roads fixed and playgrounds provided. It can be as widespread as a fundamental shift in how we treat those who fall on the worst of times. It can go as far as to change the culture of how we interact with each other.

We are entering a time of upheaval in Cork. The expansion brings challenges and opportunities.

The crucial piece will be, must be, a desire to do things much differently. To engage with experts. To allow citizens to address council in a petitions type system. To establish town hall style forums in the electoral wards on a regular non-party political basis.

These are just some of the political reforms I have proposed. I do not have a monopoly on different ideas - no one does.

We have to be able to work together with all parties and none to achieve the common cause of Cork and her people.

The change in attitudes from elected councillors outside of tribal instincts must be brought to bear on officials in the executive. Everyone in City Hall. Every single person is there for the betterment of Cork and is there to serve Cork.

There is no doubting in my mind that on an individual basis they do so for the right reasons. But the individual gets lost in the collective. Now is the time to right that imbalance and ensure the collective response is that for the people.

The fact is that those who defend the status-quo were in fact themselves arbiters of change once upon a time.

We need to harness the energy that is seen in advocacy groups in this city like the Cork Cycling Campaign and the enthusiasm shown by Cork students campaigning against climate change every Friday afternoon outside City Hall.

We need the engagement with the transport experts and architectural masters that live and work in our city and want to see it do well.

This is not an academic exercise in filling pages and ticking boxes. It is, and must be, a new way of working for Cork. If you want that new approach, think hard when you enter the ballot box this May. The future of Cork may depend on it.

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