Thursday 8 December 2016

Water debacle washed away the crucial trust

Published 27/04/2016 | 02:30

While Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil appear to have finally grasped the water bills nettle, Richard Boyd Barrett of AAA-PBP (pictured) and Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin loudly demanded a Dáil debate on water charges. Photo: Tom Burke
While Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil appear to have finally grasped the water bills nettle, Richard Boyd Barrett of AAA-PBP (pictured) and Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin loudly demanded a Dáil debate on water charges. Photo: Tom Burke
But there were some hopeful signs for our politics elsewhere at Leinster House yesterday. Downstairs in Committee Room 3, the quiet professional Deputy John Curran chaired exchanges between TDs and experts on the problems of homelessness and the housing crisis. It was an example of what new politics could bring us.

It has not been a good week for Irish politics. It bodes ill for hopes of developing "new politics" with cross-party cooperation built on give and take.

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The face-off between the two big beasts of Irish politics, over water charges of all things, has damaged the trust required to build a minority government with any hope of durability. We cannot repeat often enough that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been publicly committed to water charges since 2009.

The brutal political reality is that Fianna Fáil took a half-way house stance of suspending charges and the poorly thought-out abolition of Irish Water only in response to their keen rivals Sinn Féin. And, in a further ironic twist, Sinn Féin adopted their all-out militant stance only in 2014, in response to two Dublin by-election defeats.

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