Thursday 29 September 2016

Forget 'afters' and more 'handbags at dawn' - it's time for grown-up politics

Published 29/04/2016 | 02:30

Labour’s Kevin Humphreys, who lost his seat in the General Election and is contesting the Seanad election, pictured with outgoing Senator Mairia Cahill at the counting of votes for the Administrative Panel in the Seanad elections at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Labour’s Kevin Humphreys, who lost his seat in the General Election and is contesting the Seanad election, pictured with outgoing Senator Mairia Cahill at the counting of votes for the Administrative Panel in the Seanad elections at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

So the "bould Leo" retreats from the negotiations telling us the deal he helped craft is inimical to the citizens' interests.

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And so the Fianna Fáil crowd stress that we will never see water charges - ever again - happen in the life of the current 32nd Dáil.

For once in politics, both sides of the argument are 100pc right. Health Minister Dr Leo Varadkar's radio foray yesterday - when he told us it was fundamentally wrong to query the future of water charges - was followed by Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath stepping up to the highest available platform to say this was "bad faith."

The words came on a day when Dublin commuters were left without trams. We were left to left to reflect on the old mantra of "do a deal - sell a deal." Again it does not encourage confidence in the future durability of an emerging minority coalition.

If you have ever witnessed a threatened digging match at a bad junior football game, you'll know what I'm talking about. This one is a case of noises-off, as would-be fighters gratefully accept to be separated by wiser intermediaries.

It's shades of: "Hold me back. Oh please, hold me back."

Whatever noises on the wireless, that ropey done-deal on water charges stands, and the noises off are for the benefit of the two respective parties' own troops. Is Dr Leo staking his claim for the "soul of Fine Gael" ahead of a leadership tilt. Well, we shall see soon enough.

Meanwhile, foot soldiers in both big parties are grateful they are not going to be pressed into canvassing too.

Don't get me wrong here. The Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil water deal is gutless, and for all that lack of guts, it still manages to stink.

Yet we must move on. We need government sooner rather than later.

So, whatever lamentable outcome we get on developing a functioning water system that will provide for the country must wait.

Here, politics has trumped everything else.

Our politicians have given people what they believe they want. Our electoral system means things go at the pace of the slowest.

About a year ago, we should have moved on from the politics of water charges.

Politics, however, often gives us tail-back issues - I mean we still have two big beast parties which date from a 90-year-old war. But let us not digress too far here.

The simple fact is that the bulk of middle Ireland had moved on to other issues.

Many politicians, frequently behind the public, realised that one too late.

Even the media, frequently trailing both punters and politicians, realised that water charges seriously trailed homelessness, health, education, policing, and rural desolation, in a list of priorities.

The thing that few have commented upon about those talks in Trinity College between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, has been how leisurely and sparing they have been.

It would have been interesting to allow Kilgarvan's Michael Healy-Rae in among them to dispel the 'Trinners' leisure aspect."

Yesterday, he suggested we could have government later next week - provided "nobody closed an eye" over the coming holiday weekend.

The time has come to put the last piece of this unprecedented government jigsaw into place.

It is time to abandon "junior" games.

Alas, the late great Séamus Brennan is not with us to tell the difference between "junior" and "senior" play.

In June 2007, the Green Party took his advice and stepped up to the senior game.

It's time all of the current crop of TDs did just that.

Irish Independent

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