New Lord Mayor Brendan Carr enforced the rules at Monday’s monthly meeting, like a newbie school teacher who’s been told he has to assert himself on his first day.
Councillors are supposed to speak for no longer than two minutes during debates, but in the past those two minutes have lasted closer to three or four.
On Monday, Carr cut the microphone of anybody who went over time, and the debate moved on to the next speaker, leaving some startled faces and air finger-wagging.
It sounds like a small thing, but it meant that councillors whipped through the agenda, reaching motions that had been on the list more than a year.
A New Councillor
Early on in the meeting, councillors welcomed a new Fianna Fail representative to the chamber: Michael Mullooly. He is replacing former councillor Catherine Ardagh, who won a seat in the Seanad, in her constituency of Crumlin and Kimmage, .
Mullooly is a barrister, a Fianna Fail activist, and a former director of elections for the party in Dublin. He didn’t say much in his speech — just thanked a lot of people and said he looks forward to working with other councillors.
Save the Uilleann Pipes
The Fine Gael group of councillors put in a last-minute motion on the much-debated busking by-laws: what about an outright ban on amplification for six months? The effects could be assessed at the end of that period, said Fine Gael Councillor Norma Sammon.
After there has been a busking forum and considerable debate, it would be back-tracking to bring that in now, said independent Councillor Cieran Perry, and others. So that idea was voted down.
Instead, councillors voted through the by-laws more or less as agreed at the council’s Arts Strategic Policy Committee. The main change is a ban on backing tracks. You can read more about that here.
On Monday, they voted through just a few more tweaks. The Green Party’s Cieran Cuffe proposed that the amplification ban in some areas extend to Temple Bar Square, and that no busking be allowed in a specific area outside Crampton Buildings.
And Sinn Fein’s Michael MacDonncha objected to a clause that banned all percussion and wind instruments in some areas. There’s a big difference between a tin whistle and a tuba, he said. “It shows a lamentable ignorance of music to ban all wind instruments,” he said.
The idea that uilleann pipes would fall under that restriction did not sit well with many in the chamber. “Could you seriously see Glasgow City Council banning bagpipes? I couldn’t,” said Sinn Fein’s Ciaran O’Moore.
Fianna Fail’s David Costello said that unless noise restrictions are policed, none of this really matters anyway. It’s not a problem with the existing by-laws, he said. “It’s because it’s not enforced.”
Sinn Fein’s Janice Boylan put forward a motion — which passed — to call on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to pass a bill to introduce a mandatory speed limit of 20km for housing estates, and to call on other councils to lobby the minister to do it too.
Most councillors were supportive of the motion. But without the funding needed to make it happen, will it go anywhere?
Ciaran Cuffe supported the motion. “I think this is a radical step, it’s an important step in the right direction,” he said. But at the moment, the council only has a budget to put up signs — not to add traffic-calming measures to slow people down.
In January 2015, Fine Gael’s Kieran Binchy had put down a motion asking to bring in 30km per hour speed limits on “appropriate inner city and suburban residential roads”.
On Monday, councillors finally reached it on the agenda — but it was a bit moot by then. By-laws are already in the works to bring in a 30kph speed limit in phases across the city.
Councillor Binchy’s motion was passed.
Sex Shops, Revisited
You might remember the great Drumcondra sex-shop scandal of the summer of 2015. After some residents objected to a new PlayBlue store opening in the neighbourhood, the owners retreated.
At the time, Ciaran O’Moore put in a motion to the council asking that no new sex shops be allowed within 3km of primary schools and play areas. Given that there are more than 180 mainstream primary schools in the city, that would effectively ban new sex shops.
On Monday, when the motion finally came up for debate, some councillors either didn’t seem to have done the maths or were for a ban. Fianna Fail’s Deirdre Heney said she’d back the motion.
Others, such as Social Democrat Gary Gannon, opposed it. “I was aware that there was a backlog of motions, but this seems to be backlogged from the 1950s,” he said.
He’d be eager to talk about displays and sex positivity, healthy body images, and consent. But not casting those who go to sex shops as somehow disturbed, he said. “I don’t think it supports who we are as a modern republic,” he said.
Cuffe suggested an amendment. Perhaps 250 metres might be more appropriate, he said. That amendment, and the amended motion, were then passed.
Dublin City Council Head of Planning Jim Keogan said the change would need to be incorporated into the city development plan, at a later stage.