Thursday 30 October 2014

We know we have to pay – so stop giving half answers to our queries

Published 14/04/2014 | 02:30

John Downing

Elections are about giving. The clawbacks, the snags, the problems are for later. The examples are too numerous to mention. Enda Kenny's own first election to the Dail, in a by-election in November 1975, was helped by timely payment of Ireland's first-ever EU farm grants. From the other side of the house, in April 2002, the Fianna Fail-Progressive Democrat government paid out big child benefit increases and arrears ahead of a general election on May 17, 2002.

Any experienced politician will tell you that nothing succeeds like a bit of old-fashioned bribery matched by judicious time management of the bad news.

So, should anyone be surprised to read in this newspaper again today that the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition is delaying details of the water charges that will hit us from next autumn onwards?

Is it not just plain common sense for Government to wait out a decision process on the level of water charges, which happily does not conclude until well after the May 23 local and European elections?

Well, the realistic answer to those questions is yes and no. More precisely, yes, if you think you can get away with it, and no if it appears you cannot.

And right now, my money is on this Government not being able to get away with this one. In saying that, I am not trying to say that human nature has undergone a fundamental change in recent years. And I am very definitely not trying to take the moral high ground.

The simple reality is that we have known water charges were coming our way since autumn 2009 when the Fianna Fail-Green Party were still in power.

Since Phil Hogan took over as Environment Minister in March 2011, we have had many reminders that we will soon be paying for the privilege of turning a tap and getting a reliable supply of quality water. By now many of us have a water meter outside our door – or we know it will be installed soon.

We can also accept that the process for fixing charges involving the Energy Regulator's office, who have had energy added to their remit, will take time. But we also know that it will be possible to give a pretty clear ball-park figure on what water will cost us.

And the persistent half answers to simple questions are extremely irritating. On that basis, the Government should tell us everything it knows about the charges and let us all get on with things.

Irish Independent

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