The Devil’s Deal: FG/FF water fudge marks milestones in cowardice and incompetence

Business editor Vincent Wall on Fianna Fáil's populism and Enda Kenny's clinging to power...

The Devil’s Deal: FG/FF water fudge marks milestones in cowardice and incompetence

Brian Lawless / PA

And so, in this year of our Lord 2016, a year in which we are all commemorating the spirit of risk and revolutionary fervour that brought forth this State a century ago, it’s become clear that the only issue of substance separating our two largest political parties is whether we are charged up-front for the precious resource of water or whether the economic cost is less transparent.

God help us.

I’m not a political animal but I do understand Fianna Fáil’s rationale for not joining a coalition with Fine Gael, despite all the clamour for it. I understand such an outcome would neither work in practice in terms of the ministerial rewards that must be doled across two large parties, nor in principle given Sinn Fein’s growing presence on Fianna Fail’s greener left wing.

I also understand that Fianna Fáil, as a once dominant party which is now in recovery, had to find some issues that would distinguish it from Fine Gael and that would muddy the water (apologies) for those attracted to sip at the Sinn Fein well.

Niall Carson / PA

But to make a stand on the issue of water charges – given the overwhelming need for investment in our infrastructure and quality standards; given the fact that the hard yards had already been won and that at least 61% of taxpayers were paying up; and given the sometimes ugly and aggressive opposition to the law of the land openly displayed on our streets, beggars belief.

And to hold this nakedly populist line through putative government formation talks on the basis of not compromising on a core value promised to those who had voted for Fianna Fail. As a large man from Wexford who still presents the Breakfast Show in this parish might say, "Give us a break."

That core principle would have been compromised long before now in the “National Interest” if the numbers of TDs opposed to water charges and eager to nibble away at Fianna Fail’s bum weren’t so large nor if the Soldiers of Destiny had the gumption to do the right thing and ride out the storm.

To be sure, the introduction of water charges came at a very bad time in terms of the country’s financial well-being and that of many individual households: and, without doubt, the insensitive communications around its launch and some of the implementation decisions taken, rankled with a citizenship under pressure.

But forty years, and at least two major exchequer financial crises after Fianna Fail’s fateful abolition of domestic rates, these regrettable but largely historical issues are being flouted as the basis for a political stance that will further delay critical investment in our water services and encourage significant sections of the population to move on to the next focus for civil (and not-so-civil) disobedience.

Niall Carson / PA

Fianna Fail is holding to the position that following evaluation by an Expert Commission and subsequent mauling by an Oireachtas Committee, a majority of TDs could well vote for the re-activation of water charges sometime during the current Dail...yeah right.

It’s stressing that the thousands of people who have refused to pay and who’ve made mugs of those who did, will be pursued relentlessly for their arrears, best of luck with that...

I envisage two smiling faces this morning, a radiant Paul Murphy, who must, understandably, be considering against which next unjust tax he might march, and Enda Kenny, who must understand the nature of the devil’s deal he has agreed for perhaps a few months of a second term as Taoiseach.

We’ll move on in time to the next issue of course, we always do, but before doing so, two final thoughts:

Maybe David McSavage is part of a growing movement by declining to pay his TV licence because he has issues with RTE..

And, the real mistake in this whole debacle was not to get the Revenue Commissioners on the job of collecting water charges from the start. 97% of households are now paying their Household Property Tax, to the self-same Commissioners.

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