Sunday 22 September 2019

Let's argue against Brexit while we prepare for it

Enda Kenny’s appeal to British Prime Minister David Cameron for Britain to stay within the European Union was pitched at the level of advice from a friend and neighbour, albeit a nervous one
Enda Kenny’s appeal to British Prime Minister David Cameron for Britain to stay within the European Union was pitched at the level of advice from a friend and neighbour, albeit a nervous one
Editorial

Editorial

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's appeal to British Prime Minister David Cameron for Britain to stay within the European Union was pitched at the level of advice from a friend and neighbour, albeit a nervous one.

In his address to the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry in London yesterday, Mr Kenny was careful to stress that the decision was a matter for the people of Britain.

However it is a decision that has significant implications for Ireland and potentially catastrophic implications for Northern Ireland, where the peace process is incredibly volatile, and the fragile economy stagnant.

Both Mr Cameron and Mr Kenny are alive to the fact that emotive, apocalyptic warnings about a Brexit will not suffice.

That is why Mr Kenny, who declared that Ireland's commitment to the EU is "clear and unqualified", has placed reliance on independent economic research that a Brexit is not in Ireland's interest across a range of headings, including trade, energy and labour markets.

For his part, Mr Cameron says he will only back a vote to stay in the 28-member bloc if it is in the best interests of Britain.

There is no doubt that Britain can survive outside the EU, despite yesterday's warning by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that an exit would harm Britain's status as a global financial centre.

The question is whether Ireland could survive a Brexit whilst its commitment to the EU, facing an existential crisis over the refugee issue, is so unequivocal.

It falls to all member countries, Ireland included, to make a reasoned case against a Brexit whilst preparing for that eventuality.

That, in turn, will require the EU - an increasingly unwieldy behemoth perceived as unaccountable by many of its 500 million citizens - to make a reasoned case for its existence, let alone an ever closer union.

Just who would want to be boss of Irish Water?

News that Irish Water boss John Tierney will leave the troubled organisation comes as no surprise. Since taking control of the utility in April 2013, it has been mired in controversy on issues ranging from consultant spending to management salaries.

Many of the problems stem from the speed at which it was established and the inability of the Coalition to settle on its water-charging policy. But household payment rates remain low, and the company is not trusted by its customers.

That is a failure of management, and whoever takes control has a difficult job ahead.

Mr Tierney has achieved a lot in his time at the head of the water company.

There are fewer boil-water notices in place, and targeted investment is finally happening. There are long-term strategic plans to upgrade the network, and a sense we are finally grappling with a problem which has been ignored for so long.

But enormous issues remain, not least of which is the lack of public confidence. Given the political uncertainty around Irish Water's future, finding a suitable candidate to lead the company may prove difficult.

Irish Independent

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