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Irish Water muddying democracy


No notes or records were kept at a series of high-level Irish Water meetings in 2012 between the then Environment Minister Phil Hogan and the Bord Gáis chairwoman, Rose Hynes

No notes or records were kept at a series of high-level Irish Water meetings in 2012 between the then Environment Minister Phil Hogan and the Bord Gáis chairwoman, Rose Hynes

No notes or records were kept at a series of high-level Irish Water meetings in 2012 between the then Environment Minister Phil Hogan and the Bord Gáis chairwoman, Rose Hynes

It is beyond beggaring belief that a publicly-funded institution such as Irish Water has held a series of operational meetings, including scheduled meetings with its then sponsoring minister (Phil Hogan) - and that no minutes or paperwork exist for the majority of those meetings.

Fine Gael and Labour pledged to carry out a "Democratic Revolution" should they be elected in 2011 -and the fuel running this new departure was going to be "openness and transparency".

Why the absolute evisceration of that pledge as evidenced in the above example? Why is minute-taking and recordings of meetings and decisions thereof, not a basic, mandatory requirement?

What would happen if hospitals made no records of their activities? Even the cleaning of toilets requires written evidence of the time and name of the cleaner.

But this operation has spent hundreds of millions in public monies and remains opaque. It has even refused to appear before the national parliament's Public Accounts Committee last November - and will not do so in the future.

Meanwhile, the minister responsible shrugs his shoulders about these matters, but gets very passionate about legally pursuing those who refuse to pay monies to such an entity. Why are there so many outstanding questions regarding these matters?

In Ireland in 2015 it seems that trust is virtually zero in our political system - and that is a dangerous place for a democracy to be.

John Sullivan

Rathmines, Dublin 6

Going for a Constitution

Some 29 years ago you published [Niamh Colgan, Irish Independent, April 1, 1986] a survey of 404 Irish students. Only 10pc of them had a copy of the Constitution at home, nearly half said they knew nothing of the functions of the President, Dáil, etc and 95pc of them wanted to know nothing of it. Has anything changed? A related students' survey out today doesn't even mention the Constitution. There's little consciousness of it, despite it being the basis of our rights, duties and law.

We ought to ensure that citizens 'buy into' their Constitution, and make it theirs like a catechism - in the way we admire Americans and the French for the pride they have in theirs. Often in schools no time is given to civics, while 1,200 hours is given to religious instruction. Perhaps if schools and training colleges were influenced more by fathers and mothers than Fathers and Mothers, citizens' rights and duties might be instilled?

David Farrell, politics guru at UCD and adviser to the Government's novel Constitutional Convention of 100 citizens, bemoaned the fact that the recommendations of this think tank lie in pigeon holes. Progressing them has been abandoned. Nothing new here.

The 700-page Report of the TK Whitaker-chaired Constitutional Review Group (1996) was also abandoned, essentially wasted work, which was and hurtful to the participants.

Meanwhile, the Constitution of July 1937 is taking the shape of a Cuban car: all patches. Its life-cycle is closely following the reliability engineer's "bathtub curve". During its first few years many changes were made without reference to the plebs. Then 50 years of calm, mid-life followed, with a referendum every four years. Then 25 years of almost frenetic patches, as the document aged, amounting to one referendum-remedy a year.

The current Government's penchant for centralised control is bad. The processing of the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention and Whitaker's review group truly suits an all-party, not partisan, committee of the Oireachtas.

John Colgan

Leixlip, Co Kildare

Time to end the discrimination

I came "out and proud" in the early 1990s, at a time when homosexuality was being decriminalised. I was - and am - genuinely happy to be gay and, as always, am determined to live a happy, prejudice-free existence.

I do think my assertive attitude in relation to my sexuality contributed significantly, not only to my happiness, but the positive attitude of my friends and family around me. Of course, in the 1990s Ireland was also becoming a less conservative and judgmental country.

As a happy gay man in my 40s who is in a 20-year relationship, I am heartened by the positive life experience of my peers and of those younger gay men and women I meet daily. I intend to move forward and upwards with my life and expect a just and moral society to legislate in my favour.

Thus, the coming referendum is important for two reasons: civil marriage is a right provided for in the Constitution and ought not to be denied to any sector of society.

Second, it is time that we ceased isolating and discriminating against a minority, from a policy and legal perspective. Not just for the practical and legal implications it has, but also to finally support the many gay and lesbian men and women today who are "out and proud" and happy and who are no longer prepared to be marginalised or discriminated against.

Paraic Elliott

Ashbourne, Co Meath

Lying and lambs

We humans can be a hypocritical bunch. Take our stance on spring lambs, for instance.

On the RTE main evening news the other night there was a report from Kerry on an extremely rare event: two sheep, on the same farm, within 24 hours of each other, gave birth to quadruplets.

There was, of course, the stock footage of the cute day-old lambs, barely able to stand, fluffy toys wobbling around the barn, suckling at their mothers' teats. And Sharon Ní Bheoláin, back in the studio, remarked with her endearing smile: "Now wouldn't that gladden your heart?"

The lambs are without question - to the empathetic human eye - cute and cuddly. Unfortunately, we do not treat them as we treat dogs and cats, our preferred animals. No, lambs are brought into the world so that they can be slaughtered and eaten. I'm sorry if that bare fact doesn't gladden this heart.

How about cutting out the cute and cuddly talk and be honest with ourselves? Killing lambs is a heartless business.

Gerry Boland

Keadue, Co Roscommon

Irish Independent