Saturday 24 September 2016

A nice idea but it's a step too far for FF

Published 23/06/2016 | 02:30

Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Arthur Carron
Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Arthur Carron

He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.

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That's a quote from Niccolo Machiavelli that sums up the relationship between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the minority government project.

Despite sitting on the Opposition benches, Fianna Fáil are in a position to wag the Government's tail. But that power needs to be used in a measured way.

Fianna Fáil went all out on water charges by making it a red line issue and won.

Since then they have forced Michael Noonan to act on consumer issues such as high mortgage interest rates and car insurance.

But after the initial gung-ho attack in relation to waste charges last week, their Housing and Local Planning spokesman Barry Cowen adopted a very conciliatory tone with Minister Simon Coveney.

He refused to criticise him outright and welcomed the 12-month freeze on bin charges. The view was that Mr Coveney acted quickly and adequately so there was no point in kicking him for the sake of it.

Roll on another 24 hours to a debate led by Sinn Féin on the same issue and suddenly the outcome wasn't enough.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor articulated a new position for Fianna Fáil which would see private waste firms offer waivers for low income households and families with babies. "Fianna Fáil is calling on the minister to have a waiver scheme to be introduced for lower income households and households with special needs who cannot afford to pay as well as larger households who could be unduly affected by these charges, for example minister, families with young children, babies, nappies," said the party's Seanad spokesperson on Housing.

And suddenly the problem Simon Coveney thought he had put in a box and packed away for 12 months is back on the agenda.

Presumably Ms Murnane O'Connor doesn't expect the waivers will kick-in until the new pay-by-weight regime is up and running properly - but she must have ideas about how it would be funded, what constitutes a low-income family and who will administer it.

This may be a step too far when private firms are involved.

The problem about being in power and out of power is knowing when to settle.

Irish Independent

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