Saturday 1 October 2016

Honesty and plain speaking will help restore public trust

Published 29/04/2016 | 02:30

Ireland's notoriously strict defamation laws have been called into question ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
Ireland's notoriously strict defamation laws have been called into question ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

This is not a letter to discuss the merits of Irish Water, an argument on the company's feasibility or its possible necessity - instead, it seeks to raise a point as to how the worth of any idea lives or dies on how it's delivered.

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Let it first be said that historically, there has been some extremely poor public policy allowed to occur all on the back of the well-managed delivery of the message. In recent years, we've had the dissolution of the Health Boards, the establishment of the National Roads Authority and selling of toll roads to private operators, and the abolition of Town Councils.

All were extremely short-sighted policies that were successfully passed by capturing the public mood, and delivering in a language that empathised with the fears of key demographics.

It was a simple, successful formula for political persuasion. But when Irish Water happened, the wheels came off.

This was the first time in the history of the modern State that bullet points and power phrases could not outweigh the inquisition of its public.

Thousands of engaged individuals spent hour upon hour across a myriad of social media platforms discussing the merits of the Government's proposal, the vagueness of its language, the justification of its figures. It has been an examination of policy like none other.

Irish Water and its charges were announced without expectation of significant organised opposition, and a misguided belief that the austerity years had quelled the public's ability to question 'what had to be done for the common good'.

Classic policy delivery was dead. This generation has been force-fed political engagement through austerity and recession. No policy will ever again go without its trial in the public eye.

So what should be the mechanism for policy delivery? How do you calm the digitalised masses who have found an easily accessible medium to share their opinion and discuss their concerns?

I believe the language of honesty and plain speaking will go a long away to win back public trust. It would be easy to write much more on the subject of political policy delivery, and how we can thank Irish Water for killing off the smug, shiny PR-delivered days of statements without answers, but I would like to leave the matter on a positive note.

So here's to Irish Water, the car-crash mechanism of its delivery, and the sharp lessons we all learned from the experience, long may they last.

Aidan Pendlebury

Clonakilty, Co Cork

Voting rights for all

In his Comment piece (Irish Independent, April 21) Kevin J. Sullivan advances his reasons as to why Irish emigrants living abroad should be given the vote. However, I venture to suggest that Mr Sullivan is overlooking a group much nearer to home, and arguably more deserving.

A large population of foreigners have settled here, but because they are not Irish nationals, they are denied voting rights.

Unlike those Irish who are domiciled in foreign lands, this group pays taxes in Ireland, probably have businesses in Ireland, as a result of which they may well be employers in Ireland.

Thus, they are contributing much more to the well-being of this country than any of those who chose to leave.

I am an Anglo American. Because of my British birth I can vote here, but my American wife cannot. However, because I am not Irish, I am not permitted to vote in a referendum, the subject and outcome of which may have a direct impact on the lives of me and others who live here.

Obviously, the franchise for such residents must have a qualification, which I suggest could be seven years of permanent uninterrupted residency before us migrants would be able to vote here in any election or referendum.

If not, should we invoke the battle cry of 'no taxation without representation'?

Michael Dryhurst

Co Roscommon

Vulnerable being ignored

We might have a government after waiting 61 days. Three years ago, I waited 10 months to have a tumour removed from my face. I am currently waiting 42 weeks for a hospital appointment.

I wrote to my local politicians asking why waiting lists were so long. I received a reply in January. I am still waiting for an appointment.

I am working for the last 46 years with no break in service, and yet I wait.

No one cares about Accident & Emergency, homelessness, shootings, young people and the suicide epidemic and yet everyone is talking about water.

Name and address with Editor

Luas strike affects all workers

Re the lack of support for Luas workers, is this because so few people are in employment, or because those who are employed do not realise the results of a race to the bottom will affect them too?

Eve Parnell

Dublin 8

A message for our politicians

Former British prime minister Clement Attlee said: "If the king asks you to form a government you say 'yes' or 'no', not 'I'll let you know later'".

Mattie Lennon

Blessington, Co Wicklow

The legacy of Easter 1916

If the executed leaders of 1916 were asked to envision the Ireland for which they were about to die, what would they have said?

Who can say for sure.

However, if they were then told that exactly 100 years later there would be the political debacle of the last couple of months, they would have gone to their deaths as sad, sad men.

Shame on us all for allowing our country descend to such a level.

Philip Byrne

Bray, Co Wicklow

Pastafarianism not a religion

Ian O'Doherty asks: 'If Pastafarianism is not recognised as an official religion in this country, why not?' (Irish Independent, April 27). The answer is because it is not a religion, but a fiction created for the sole purpose of mocking religion. The State has more serious things to do than to join in the satirical efforts of private individuals or groups.

Revd Patrick G Burke

Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

Climbdown on water

Dam it, dam it, dam it!

Enda Kenny's reaction after he was "forced" to climb down on the water charges issue by Fianna Fáil.

Damien Carroll

Kingswood, Dublin 24

Irish Independent

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