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Ministers must think before they speak

THESE have not been a good few days for the Government. Just as the Taoiseach managed to remove Transport Minister Leo Varadkar's foot from his mouth over the bailout furore, along comes Environment Minister Phil Hogan, adding new levels of confusion concerning water meters and household charges.

It fell to Enda Kenny to promise last night that we would have clarity on the household charge by the end of the month.

There are going to be tensions within any Coalition trying to navigate during a financial hurricane. However, it is crucial that the Cabinet stays on message and displays a show of unity, especially when the IMF and EU are watching our every move.

It is impossible to give a display of 'group-think' without some attempt at 'group-speak'. It is difficult to explain the sudden attack of jitters in the Government. The single most important ingredient in managing our way out of the crisis is leadership and authority, any drift on either could have serious consequences.

Few at this point doubt that it will be necessary at some point to return to revisit the bailout. However, given market sensitivities and the general state of nervousness internationally, it is critical that ministers stay on the same page. This is just as important when dealing with domestic issues. Household budgets have never been tighter, and the corresponding stress this places on families struggling to make ends meet must be understood.

So if new charges, stealth taxes, or any new expense is to be added to their burden, it behoves the Cabinet to thoroughly think things through before ventilating them in public.