Friday 13 December 2019

Simon subbed off pitch as Denis gets a hospital pass

Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government Simon Coveney TD. Pictures:Arthur Carron
Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government Simon Coveney TD. Pictures:Arthur Carron
John Downing

John Downing

Yes, the "rubbish parcel" is being passed from Simon Coveney to Denis Naughten.

True to form, Enda Kenny just slipped it out by the way, as Micheál Martin did a double-take, and momentarily stopped his snippy Dáil attacks.

"Did the Taoiseach say that the hot potato has been handed to the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources?" the Fianna Fáil leader wanted to know.

The Taoiseach basically said yes, though he made heavy weather of stumbling through a turgid series of changing ministerial job titles, which effectively moved the rubbish charges row from Fine Gael's Coveney to the Independent Minister, Naughten. "Housing, planning and local government and, obviously, energy and...", the Taoiseach trailed off a bit hopelessly in a reference to Mr Coveney.

Happily, there were helpful officials manning phones to fill in the series of blanks left by Mr Kenny. If you promise to stay awake - I promise to keep this short.

Former Fine Gaeler Naughten was appointed "Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources" the day the Government was formed. True blue Fine Gaeler and would-be Taoiseach Coveney got the job of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and with that came the basket of troubles associated with both water charges and the dormant pay-by-weight rubbish row.

On June 1, just as we were learning Naughten's title, they changed it. He would soon be known as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. That change was only signed off by Cabinet yesterday.

What few of us noticed was that the addition of Environment also means bins. We could be forgiven this oversight as Coveney continued his public struggle on refuse charges.

Ironically, after two bouts of attrition, Coveney now appears to have at least parked the row. All he really has to do now is build houses and then more houses.

If Naughten is lucky, he may not have to deal with this one again for anything up to a year.

The other intriguing political game being played involved Fianna Fáil. It soon became clear that they were not going to yank the Government's chain on the bin charges. A simple case of "not this one - and not now".

Fianna Fáil's environment spokesman, Barry Cowen, took his time but gave the Government the benefit of the doubt.

The opinion polls are static for now. It will be a different story if Fianna Fáil start to climb in the ratings.

Irish Independent

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