For some reason, one way to denigrate politicians who appear too concerned with their own constituencies is to accuse them of being focused on fixing potholes. An obsession with the quality of road surfaces has come to stand as a modern replacement for the dismissive term ‘parish-pump politics’.
Those airy dismissals don’t emanate from drivers who have to contend with terrible roads, however. As reported earlier this week, some of the roads in Cork are so bad at present that councillors are suggesting the army will be needed to repair them, presuming the army can get past the potholes in the first place to do so.
While the subject of Irish roads has been reliable source material for comedy for years, the state of the roads in Cork opens a window into far more serious issues.
For instance, Cork councillors were told this week that in Macroom there were seven outdoor Cork County Council workers 15 years ago, but now there are two, only one of whom is full-time.
While this is reflective of the shortage of staff in many sectors of the economy, it is a surprising decline in the context of a large town such as Macroom.
However, it also contributes to the sense of a vicious circle — to hire more workers for places like Macroom in order to maintain the infrastructure, the council will have to raise commercial rates.
Given the cost-of-living crisis, that presents its own challenges, so it was no surprise to read that the increase in commercial rates proposed at this week’s meeting of Cork County Council led to accusations of fiscal irresponsibility being shouted across the council chamber.
Yet if the council does nothing to bring in more revenue, the potholes will continue to expand as necessary services, and outdoor workers, cannot be funded.
Hence the reluctance in this corner to criticise those who can get potholes repaired.