Saturday 3 December 2016

Water fiasco shows Fianna Fáil remains wedded to old-style, unprincipled politics

Published 29/04/2016 | 02:30

There was a point this week when it appeared the "talks" were going nowhere. For most observers, this represented a disappointing failure of politics; a straightforward example of an inability to shift from fixed positions to a reasonable compromise. Another election loomed, an option to which I viewed as being preferable to a total cave in by Fine Gael to Fianna Fáil's populist policy of abolishing Irish Water and water charges.

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But as it turned out, Fine Gael did roll over. Such a reversal of a major public policy as the price for Fianna Fáil facilitating a minority government is a spectacular example of unprincipled politics. After all, it was Fianna Fáil in Government that legislated for the imposition of water charges in line with the EU Water Framework Directive. But later, for base political motives, it reversed that policy so as not to be outdone in opposition by Sinn Féin and the other protest parties.

Former Fianna Fáil environment minister Noel Dempsey struggled to defend the party's changed position on water. Bad enough that Fianna Fáil is back to its old tricks of populist giveaways as in the 1970s, it was disgraceful to use the issue as a deal-breaker for the formation of a government.

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