Irish Water's not dead, it's just resting
Published 16/07/2015 | 02:30
Not for the first occasion in the lifetime of this Government, Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch sprang unbidden to mind during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil. The Taoiseach was on his feet, doing his utmost to persuade an incredulous opposition that Irish Water isn't deceased at all.
It's only resting, or stunned, protested a poker-faced Enda. Or maybe it's simply pining for the fjords.
Micheál Martin and Mary Lou McDonald took it in turns to metaphorically bang Irish Water against the table-tops and remonstrate that in fact the utility company is indeed off the twig. That it has kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible.
"It's a moment of high farce, Taoiseach, that you've now landed us in," tut-tutted Micheál.
The farcical aspect which was exercising the Fianna Fáil leader was the bizarre prospect of the Government being obliged to hand over in September one hundred scoots to every one of the 1.35m people who registered with Irish Water - regardless of whether or not they actually coughed up for their first bill.
It is, in essence, Free Money. It's the political equivalent of One for Everyone in the Audience. Spooked by the size and vociferousness of the protests against the water charges, the coalition dropped the big stick and dangled a big carrot instead: Don't pay us, folks, we'll pay you.
It was basically an abject attempt, to quote Barack Obama, to slather lipstick on a pig. But the Government's effort at a spot of porcine maquillage has created something of a dog's dinner.
"Why would one pay the water charge if one gets the €100 anyway?" asked Micheál.
"Those who have paid must be looking askance at the situation. Even if you're not an Irish Water customer, you'll get the €100. If you don't pay the bill, you'll get the €100," he pointed out. "It's probably the first Government in history that after introducing a tax will actually lose money."
Enda must've been silently cursing Irish Water. If they had waited until later in the day - or better still until the following morning when the Tánaiste takes Leaders' Questions - he'd be home and hosed.
For the Dáil rises today, presenting Enda with nine weeks of freedom from any opposition grilling. The only grilling he hopes to deal with for a blissful August is turning over a few sausages on the barbecue in the back garden.
But the Castlebar Blackadder has a cunning plan. Irish Water isn't dead as a parrot, the take-up figure of less than 50pc isn't a disaster, and the 100 spondulicks isn't either a cock-up or a bribe. It is, in fact, a Conservation Grant.
"You fail to recognise that the €100 is not just an incentive to people to contribute, but is a conservation grant," he chided Micheál.
"Conservation grant, wink, wink," scoffed Mary Lou.
Enda looked as mulish as the Python pet shop owner. Irish Water is only resting, you see. It hasn't fallen off its perch at all.