Wednesday 24 May 2017

Populist quick fixes can't deliver clean, safe water

Fianna Fáil’s original promise to abolish Irish Water is hollow. As Mr Kenny points out, how can we possibly guarantee clean water, and meet conservation requirements, without massive investment? (Stock photo)
Fianna Fáil’s original promise to abolish Irish Water is hollow. As Mr Kenny points out, how can we possibly guarantee clean water, and meet conservation requirements, without massive investment? (Stock photo)

Many were dismayed that Irish Water played such a major role in the election, even influencing the ultimate make-up of the Government. In politics, an issue can take on urgency because it has gained traction with voters but that should not necessarily catapult it to the top of the agenda in terms of importance.

But populism won out as Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil engaged in a bidding war to be the people's champion when it came to the vexed question of charges and the abolition of Irish Water. Opportunism in "new politics" has made trivial things vital, and vital things trivial. The Government must jump through hoops merely to survive, given the precarious arithmetic on which it depends.

But this week we got a warning shot from Brussels about all this pandering to soft-option solutions. The European Commission warned we could face significant fines "pretty quickly" that could cost the State tens of thousands of euro daily because of the decision to suspend water charges.

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