Sunday 22 October 2017

Stephen Donnelly: Public money is still being flushed down the toilet, and it stinks

Everything about the Government's approach to Irish Water smacks of Fianna Fail at its worst, says Stephen Donnelly

John Tierney,Chief Executive of Irish Water (right) and John Barry, Bord Gais, arriving for the Oireachtas Environment committee meeting at Leinster House yesterday. In background is Lero Varadkar,TD the Minister for Transport. Photo: Tom Burke.
John Tierney,Chief Executive of Irish Water (right) and John Barry, Bord Gais, arriving for the Oireachtas Environment committee meeting at Leinster House yesterday. In background is Lero Varadkar,TD the Minister for Transport. Photo: Tom Burke.

Stephen Donnelly

THE Dail got back to work on Wednesday, with the Irish Water fiasco making it feel to many that nothing has changed since the bad ol' days of Fianna Fail. We have different parties in power, but the Government's approach to Irish Water makes it crystal clear that the 'democratic revolution' was just another empty promise.

A few weeks before the 2011 election, I confessed to a seasoned political observer my optimism about the Fine Gael/Labour Government-in-waiting. Along with the rest of the country, I had listened for years to their outrage at how Fianna Fail ran the country, with its secrets, cronyism, waste of public money and contempt for parliament. The Fine Gael and Labour election manifestos oozed reform and transparency. The media carried strong, brave words from senior party figures about how things would be different in the corridors of power. I was impressed.I was hopeful.

When I finished my ramble, the man I was with paused, trying to establish if I was being ironic, or if I really was that naive. When he realised it was the latter, he explained, in a resigned tone, that nothing was going to change, not really. He believed the big talk on banks and bondholders was just that. Payments to bondholders would continue, as would acquiescence to the banks. He pointed out that, in policy terms, there wasn't much difference between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, and that Labour would do what it was told. Lastly, he predicted that the culture associated with Fianna Fail -- of jobs for the boys, bonuses for the boys, lack of accountability and two fingers to the Dail -- would pervade the Fine Gael/ Labour Government.

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