Drop the moralising - we're just angry Finian was clever enough not to pay
Published 12/05/2016 | 02:30
Finally we have seen some actual new politics. After all the talk over recent months of the dawn of Dáil diversity and a different way of doing things, we have at last witnessed the first tangible evidence of it.
It came yesterday morning as Fine Gael ministers lined up to criticise one of their own on the way into Cabinet.
Until now one minister would steadfastly defend another in the face of the most outrageous lapses of judgment or controversy - but not anymore it seems.
Simon Coveney, Simon Harris, Frances Fitzgerald, Michael Creed and Paschal Donohoe all turned on their new Independent 'equal' Finian McGrath, stating that he needed to lead by example and pay his water charges.
Of course, they have the morale high ground and are right: Mr McGrath does have a legal obligation to pay his charges, especially now that he is in government. But if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, are people really just angry at Mr McGrath because they feel like mugs for paying their own bills?
One of the Cabinet's first jobs is to draw up legislation suspending water charges, which most politicians accept won't be returning anytime soon.
And despite the weeks of controversy and political negotiations, the law-abiding leaders in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil still can't tell us how they are going to level the playing pitch for those who have paid and those who have not. We hear empty promises that non-payers will be chased - but there is no evidence to suggest this will actually happen.
At any rate the law which allows for money to be taken from their pay or social welfare isn't fit for purpose.
Of course the decent thing for Mr McGrath to do would be to pay his water charges.
It's hard to argue with other ministers that your department should get increased funding when you are refusing to pay your own taxes in full.
But let's not be too moralistic.
When Fine Gael sat down to ask his price for supporting Enda Kenny they knew where he stood on water - and it didn't bother them at that stage.
And if we are honest, the real reason much of middle Ireland is annoyed with Mr McGrath is that he was clever enough not to pay in the first place.