Wednesday, July 04, 2001

From the back of the chamber - a journalist's view of Naas UDC

Naas UDC in more pleasant mood at its Centenary.
It wasn’t so much a case of shooting the messenger, just taking poorly-aimed potshots at him. Last night’s performances at Naas UDC were all too familiar.

But that’s what journalists are for. Set them up, shoot ’em down. If you can stop the hand shaking.

That’s one thing about sitting at the back of Naas UDC. You can see the hands shake. You can almost smell the apoplexy coming to the boil. It really can’t be very good for the health, sitting as a councillor in Naas UDC these days. And if one wasn’t in the whole of one’s mental heart, sitting there as a journalist might be a terminal risk.

But we do it. Because that’s our job. Part of it anyway, reporting on the proceedings. But our job is also more. Apart from what we hear at a local authority meeting, we also find out other things. And we tell other people the things we find out. That’s our job.

Quite often there are people who don’t want journalists to find out the things we tell to other people. Mostly, it is the political body which doesn’t like things being revealed.

Because secrets are power. And every ‘secret’ that a politician loses to the public domain diminishes his or her ‘power’. Maybe if they’re not in control of the issuing of ‘secrets’, they get afraid that benefit will accru to somebody else without them being able to claim credit. There are other reasons for keeping secrets too, but if we start getting into all the complexities, we’ll lose focus.

And that’s the other thing you see from the back table at Naas UDC. People losing focus. People straying from the core of the job to be done and getting sidetracked into thinking how much more important they are than they are. If you see what I mean.

You see - and hear - councillors metaphorically taking off and launching crude political bombs just for the sake of scoring over colleagues. And in these sorties, just like in a real war, it’s the poor civilians on the ground who are paying for it and not getting any benefit from the aerobatics of some of the Biggleses around the council table.

With some notable exceptions of individual members and officials and occasions, and maybe on non-contentious matters, you can hear copius quantities of waffle, piffle, bullsh, bilge, drivel, twaddle and blather. The fluffing of political feathers too regularly drowns out rational queries when they most often need to be answered.

And at the back end of the chamber, while politicans prattle, scribes scribble. Often trying to make sense of nonsense. Sometimes attempting to dig behind the uttered words to find out what’s left unsaid. Always trying to at least get out the facts in an intelligable form to their readers. To the politicians’ electorate. Who, poor sods, only have a once in five years chance to get a say of their own.

For the other four years and three hundred and sixty-four days, we poor journalist sods are in between. And for the last two AGMs in the current Naas UDC, we’ve been the target of potshots from people who don’t like us doing our job. Unless we’re doing THEIR public relations job. Which is NOT our job anyway.

Money wouldn’t pay you to put up with it. But then, nobody pays me in KNN to do it. Think of it as public service journalism.

And at least I don’t have a shake in my hand. Yet.

(And I wish the new chairman well in his efforts to improve matters.)

NOTE: This piece was first published on KildareNetNews (KNN) on 4 July, 2001.