Sunday 15 December 2019

Populist quick fixes can't deliver clean, safe water

Fianna Fáil’s original promise to abolish Irish Water is hollow. As Mr Kenny points out, how can we possibly guarantee clean water, and meet conservation requirements, without massive investment? (Stock photo)
Fianna Fáil’s original promise to abolish Irish Water is hollow. As Mr Kenny points out, how can we possibly guarantee clean water, and meet conservation requirements, without massive investment? (Stock photo)

Many were dismayed that Irish Water played such a major role in the election, even influencing the ultimate make-up of the Government. In politics, an issue can take on urgency because it has gained traction with voters but that should not necessarily catapult it to the top of the agenda in terms of importance.

But populism won out as Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil engaged in a bidding war to be the people's champion when it came to the vexed question of charges and the abolition of Irish Water. Opportunism in "new politics" has made trivial things vital, and vital things trivial. The Government must jump through hoops merely to survive, given the precarious arithmetic on which it depends.

But this week we got a warning shot from Brussels about all this pandering to soft-option solutions. The European Commission warned we could face significant fines "pretty quickly" that could cost the State tens of thousands of euro daily because of the decision to suspend water charges.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is quite correct today to point out that the race for a "quick fix", delivering all things to everyone when it comes to dealing with Irish Water, is fanciful. We are bound by EU strictures and, like it or not, we must abide by them. Fianna Fáil's original promise to abolish Irish Water is hollow. As Mr Kenny points out, how can we possibly guarantee clean water, and meet conservation requirements, without massive investment?

He is also right to remind us that some form of financing will have to be found, and that will involve somebody putting their hand in their pocket. Things which matter most must not be at the mercy of things which matter least. Yielding to the popular public impulse can only last so long. Sooner or later, principles will be sacrificed and eventually the cost of the "quick fix" will have to be reckoned with.

Trump’s inflammatory disease needs treatment

Donald Trump likes making friends. The trouble is that he seems just as much at ease with making enemies. This loose talking and readiness to offend and alienate has understandably caused enormous division. Yet Mr Trump could hardly be more indifferent. He seems happy to trample over any group if it will garner votes. This may be just about tolerable on the campaign trail, but it would be disastrous if the trait were to survive should he cross the threshold of the White House. His inflammatory racial comments have been especially criticised.

The news that he will be coming to Ireland this month will be greeted with mixed emotions, and Mr Trump has nobody but himself to blame for this. Yet unlike what he himself has threatened to do, there will be no closing of borders – but there will be no rolling out of the red carpet either. The presumptive Republican candidate will have to learn to temper his mood swings from bombastic iconoclast to serious politician. The flames of his incendiary rhetoric could very well end up licking his own feet. Mr Trump is more than capable of reinventing himself if needs must. He famously went so far as to befriend the microscopic snail that was once his deadly foe when it threatened his Doonbeg development.

Commenting on what lays ahead, he recently said: “Anyone who thinks my story is anywhere near over is sadly mistaken.” Isaac Newton noted that: “Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.” And were he around today to do so, he might also remind Mr Trump that what goes up must come down.

Irish Independent

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