The honest will wind up paying for the Irish Water quango
So all is settled. We have "certainty, simplicity and affordability". The charging rates have been lowered and set in stone for four years. Irish Water will only be privatised if the people agree in a plebiscite. The Government backbenchers, we hear, are quietly satisfied that the worst is over and that the Government has regained the initiative. Case closed. Panic over.
But is it? The big problem is those who won't pay and those who can't pay. What is to be done about it? The Government's answer is political - ambiguous and mealy-mouthed. People won't be chased for the charge until a year and a month from the start date. The financial penalties seem rather low and will only count, apparently, when the residence is being sold. There is no mention of jail terms and confiscation of income or property. PPSs are not to be asked for and those which have been given are to be dealt with by protocol between Irish Water and the Data Commissioner.
As usual the Government has chickened out. The honest will wind up paying for the quango known as Irish Water. Those who don't pay are going to get a lot more time with their money than the honest ones. Eventually, a detailed scheme will have to be designed for those who really can't pay. This means income assessment - something Revenue and Social Welfare seem reluctant to do.
In the meantime, Irish Water will be racking up costs which will have to be paid in the future - almost certainly from Government income or loans.
So expect a big jump in water charges post-2019. Hopefully, the country won't be washed up by then. This Government are unlikely to be in power then (not to worry - the pensions are terrific).
Maybe Sinn Fein will be power. It should be interesting to see their policy on Irish Water. There's one positive note about Sinn Fein in government - enforcement of government policy shouldn't be a problem.
Coolock, Dublin 17
When George Bush Senior was president of the US he said that future wars would be about water. Once again, Ireland is to the fore as we set out to do the right thing by starting our own watered-down version in the run-up to the 2016 celebrations.
This is what was really said outside the GPO that day in 1916 (as it all becomes clearer now that we see history repeat itself).
"In the name of Water and the dead generations, etc, etc." We can now confidently replace Padraig Pearse's "blood sacrifice" with "water retention", because he obviously was saying this.
You can take our freedom, but you'll never take our rivers, which always run free. Oh, they've taken them as well?
Bantry, Co Cork
It's not just any panto... it's the Irish Water panto.
Almost everyone knows that when you are in a hole you stop digging. However, after half a million water holes, the Government are still at it.
Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim
'Disgraceful' scenes in Ireland
Dear God! Am I supposed to be concerned that Joan Burton has been hit by a balloon? Enda Kenny says this is "disgraceful". Really?
Taoiseach, for your education, this is what "disgraceful" looks like:
It's the two men I know in their 40s in our capital who killed themselves because their businesses failed in the crash, which was caused by Irish politicians.
It's doing absolutely nothing, when you're the leader of the opposition, to hold an inept government to account - even though that's your absolute duty in a democracy.
It's failing to pressurise government during the boom years to invest in hospitals, schools and 100-year-old leaky water pipes.
It's throwing away €80m of our money to set up Irish Water.
It's the death of my father this year from complications having developed a lung clot after lying on a hospital trolley. (He was in A&E simply to get three stitches in his head after a fall and wanted to go home during all of the first 24 hours. Then he deteriorated, had to go to a ward and then cost the taxpayer a bomb in useless rehabilitation costs for three months, before he eventually died in a room with eight other patients watching him). My father had paid twice over for his medical care (both public and private).
This is a definition of "disgraceful".
Dr Maeve White
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14
Don't let Benjy bull leave alone
I note in your pages the exploits of Benjy the Co Mayo gay bull (November 18).
So far, £9,000 (€11,242) has already been pledged to rehome the lucky bull.
A young adult Charlois would weigh about 800kg, at current (well-publicised) low pricing levels (€3.67/kg) this would amount to under €3,000. Considering the amount raised, perhaps there would be enough left over for him to bring a friend?
Richard E Joyce
Monkstown, Co Dublin
Backing continuous assessment
The second-level teacher unions are committed to resisting the compromised proposals for junior-cycle reforms as outlined by the Minister for Education and Skills. Regrettably, they have announced two days of strike.
In a joint statement the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers' Union of Ireland continue to raise concerns about the potential impact of 40pc school-based continuous assessment on "educational standards". They also strongly claim to be taking a stand on behalf of their students and what is best for them.
However, both the National Parents Council Post-Primary (NPCpp) and the Irish Second-level Students' Union (ISSU) have come out in support of the minister's proposed reforms, including a level of school-based assessment.
In their own joint statement both parent and student bodies have respectfully asked teachers to return to talks, stating that the minister's proposed package of reforms is "good for students, good for parents and good for education".
Therefore, these proposed strikes do not have the support of many parents and students. More importantly, many of the concerns raised by the unions are not supported by research.
Both teachers and union representatives are well aware that research has repeatedly and consistently demonstrated that constructive and formative feedback is essential for promoting learning.
Students need to know what they are doing well, where they are required to improve and how they can improve.
A summative exam at the end of a three-year cycle does not give teachers the opportunity to provide such feedback. On the other hand, the proposed 40pc school-based continuous assessment over years two and three provides teachers with the opportunity to assess their students and help them identify areas where they can learn and develop their skills, as well as hopefully improving students' overall grade outcome.
Teachers are best placed to provide students with individualised formative feedback that can help them reach their full potential.
Dr Raymond Lynch
Department of Education
University of Limerick