On 18th April last, I phoned Dublin City Council to ask a simple question.
Was Minister for State, Pat the Cope Gallagher, fined for illegally erecting a number of posters around Dublin?
104 days later, on 30th July, I was finally informed in a letter from Dublin City Council that Gallagher was not fined.
Over those 104 days I made numerous phone calls, sent emails, wrote letters, made official complaints and generally made myself known to Dublin City Council Waste Management staff.
Here’s the letter followed by my comments
Dear Mr. Sheridan,
I refer to your letter of 23/04/07 and apologise for the delay in replying, which was due to an oversight.
On 15/04/2007 Dublin City Council staff removed posters carrying the name, “Pat the Cope Gallagher” which had been erected on it’s (sic) property, (public lighting poles). Subject to stringent conditions, Dublin City Council occasionally gives permission for the erection of posters on it’s (sic) property, but no application was received in respect of these posters. They were removed for disposal but Mr. Gallagher claimed not to have known of Dublin City Council’s policy and the posters were returned on the understanding that there would be no further breach of that policy. In the circumstances no further action was taken.
Where fines are issued under the Litter Pollution Act 1997, Dublin City Council will disclose general details, but not personal information, pending possible prosecution and court hearing. This is in line with the principle of presumed innocence until proven guilty. In this instance no fine was issued and details of discussions held with Mr. Gallagher were regarded as confidential and not disclosed. This policy applies equally across the board.
Mr. Cronin requested that you put your various questions in writing. This was to enable a reasoned and accurate reply to the issue, which he felt he wasn’t in a position to do in a phone conversation. In the circumstances the request was reasonable.
Again I would like to apologise for the delay in replying to your queries, but if there are any issues you would like to discuss further please contact me as above.
A/Senior Executive Officer
I had regular and robust conversations with Dublin City Council staff on the matter so I don’t believe that the delay was due to an oversight. These so called public servants treated me as I believe they treat most other citizens.
First, a paternalistic attitude was adopted assuring me that the matter was dealt with and not to worry. When I insisted on an answer a more aggressive attitude developed and I was, in effect, told that it was none of my business. When this failed to work I was referred to a more senior staff member.
This public servant was at first outraged at the very idea that an ordinary citizen (peasant) had the temerity to challenge government officials. When I raised the question of regulations/duties/obligations I was angrily told to put my question in writing.
I did, by registered post and addressed personally to this particular public servant. The final contemptuous strategy was then adopted. Despite a clear request for an acknowledgement my letter was completely ignored.
It was, I believe, only after these people learned that I had made an official complaint to the Ombudsman about their behaviour that I finally received an answer to my simple question.
Arrogance, contempt, ignorance, paternalism, secrecy, dishonesty, incompetence – All this from the best paid but least accountable public service in Europe.