Wednesday, November 19, 2014

THE water saga just goes on and on. But at the time of writing, no major changes have taken place – at least, none that have definitely been defined

But the very use of the word ‘definite’ is dangerous when it comes to talking about Irish Water. So far, what has been peddled as definite has been rowed back. We are all waiting with bated breath for the next round of outpourings from Irish Water, but while everyone is attempting to make sure the muck doesn’t stick, all that appears to be happening is people keep digging a bigger hole for themselves.

At one stage, it looked as if Labour was going to go on a solo run when the tánaiste announced that she couldn’t see a family of four (husband and wife and two adult children) paying more than €200 a year.

As expected, this left others with egg on their face but, as anyone knows, you shouldn’t be in politics unless you have a ‘back story’ – and sure enough, the waters were muddied enough shortly afterwards so that no-one, including the politicians, knew what was going on.

The only thing that is going on is the fact that people are continuing to object to the very notion of having to pay for water. It is not so much the fact that they have to pay; it is the manner in which they are being forced to pay, and all the stories which have abounded about how little that will be.

But the truth has proved to be the opposite. When the European elections were announced, we were told we would definitely know before the polls opened. The days passed by but it was only at the last minute that the full extent of the proposals became known.

Thankfully, the people made their views know at election time, but it has taken two by-elections to hammer home the simple message that the people are not happy.

There have been a few crunch times regarding Irish Water in the past, and this week is another one of those. By now, you would imagine our politicians have got the message and will listen to reason. But remember, as I said before, this is politics, and reason is often in short supply.

We have a much better chance of people listening to reason if you mention votes in the same sentence because it is all about the current government holding onto power and, irrespective of what any politician says, they want to be back in office after the next general election.

It is all about balance. We know someone has to pay, and that someone will be the electorate. It is a question of what people can genuinely afford to pay. And so much is being taken out of pay packets that very little is left – and we all see how much hard-earned taxes are wasted – just like almost half of the water passing through the pipes in this country.

If Irish Water concentrated more on fixing leaks and doing a good job communicating with its new customers rather than spending €50 million on consultants, it might find people more amenable to paying something for the water they need.

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By Michael Godfrey
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