Opinion Editorial

Thursday 21 March 2019

Editorial: 'Rocking boat irresponsible as we face into Brexit storm'

Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Editorial

Editorial

Few sights are as satisfying to the Opposition and the public as the self-flagellation of a minister.

The smarting Simon Harris inflicted on himself was the least that was required. The real harm may well be to his political reputation as a safe pair of hands.

The ballooning of costs in the National Children's Hospital was injurious enough. It did not need to be compounded by clumsy attempts to conceal the damage.

His spurious excuse for failing to be forthright about the colossal overspend was that "he was not in a position to give commercially sensitive figures". Given the sky-rocketing of the costs, such a lax approach to the stewardship of the public purse would have been enough to have him thrown from the ramparts in any other times.

But with the runaway train that is Brexit careering in our direction, the Government must not be allowed to fall. Mr Harris's "most sincere apology" will have to suffice for now.

This is not the end of the matter; the total cost of the hospital could yet surpass €2bn, at the time of the final tender in 2017, the expected cost of the hospital was €636m.

Voters will have their own opportunity to register their opinion in due course.

Right now, Sinn Féin's cynical manipulation of the situation reflects a predictable failure to engage with the national interest. The political scalp of Simon Harris is not worth the toppling of the Government at a time of grave crisis.

Fianna Fáil has had to swallow hard in this regard. The Confidence and Supply deal will be so much dust beneath their heels as soon as the Becher's Brook of Brexit is cleared.

For the moment, the party has settled for tabling a new bill to give greater oversight on the spending of major projects. Given the tempest we are steering in, rocking the boat any further would be irresponsible. It recognises the political imperatives of the times.

By contrast, Sinn Féin's motion of no-confidence in Mr Harris - to run later this month - should be seen as another empty political tableau. The party's fixation with shallow melodrama is relegating it to a sideshow.

Look at the leverage the DUP has found by taking centre stage on Brexit.

Sinn Féin's moment of catharsis seems further away than ever. Its default position of opposition to everything, just for the sake of it, is utterly jaded.

It has veered so far off the road of political relevance it would be revolutionary in itself to see it go along willingly with anything.

There may well be more questions for Mr Harris to answer. There is more explaining to be done, accountability and responsibility - the two unclaimed orphans that seem destined to loiter in our corridors of power in perpetuity - will have to be recognised as part of the national establishment at some point. In the immediate term, however, the country has more than enough to focus on.

Politicians need to recognise the difference between a squall and a real storm.

Irish Independent

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