herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

No sign of water protesters ebbing away - I see trouble ahead Mr Kenny

Anti Water charges protesters assemble on Dublin's O'Connell Street. Photo: Tony Gavin
Anti Water charges protesters assemble on Dublin's O'Connell Street. Photo: Tony Gavin

When the Government launched Irish Water, little did it realise the controversy that it would release.

From the very beginning many taxpayers, who had endured a number of years of hardship and austerity, decided enough was enough. The charges were seen as the straw that broke the back of Irish people's patience.

Hundreds of thousands of people have protested over the past four months on the streets of our towns and cities.

The vast majority, myself included, believe that we are already paying for our water through income and other taxes. Why should we pay more?

If the Government has planned that the large protests would fizzle out, they have been proved wrong. The protesters are not going away anytime soon.

The continuing opposition to these charges led to an estimated 30,000 turnout at the latest protest march in Dublin last Saturday.

Despite the inducement of the conservation grant a third of the population have yet to sign up.

This week Environment Minister Alan Kelly TD unveiled a new 'get tough' policy on defaulters. He stated that those who refuse to pay water charges would face sanctions such as attachment orders on wages and welfare payments.

It would appear that the Government is now opting for the stick, as opposed to the previous carrot approach, in dealing with the problems of non-payment.

Just as Mr Kelly was unveiling his get tough policy, we learned that €900,000 is now to be spent on consultants who will advise the Commission for Energy Regulation on Irish Water's spending. Honestly.

Of course, consultants are nothing new in relation to Irish Water. In 2013 alone the organisation spent €50m on such services.

All this before a single meter was installed.

It was also revealed that there were no records for a number of high-level meetings at took place in 2012 between then Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Bord Gais on the issue of Irish Water.

debacle

Of 23 other meetings between April and September of that year there are notes for only 10. Bord Gais said this was "customary".

This is truly a shocking and outrageous situation, not to mention totally unprofessional.

It is incredible that minutes were not kept of these meetings between Hogan and Bord Gais when vital decisions were being made about the body.

Yesterday it emerged that up to 10pc of households in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, who are set to be billed for water from next week, have their drinking water contaminated by lead.

Ever since the beginning Irish Water has been beset by one debacle after another.

It is no wonder that many people no longer have any confidence in this body, if they ever did.

An election's just a year away. I see trouble ahead, Mr Kenny.

The 1916 centenary is creeping up, so why don’t we know what’s planned?

THE centenary of the 1916 Easter rebellion, one of the most momentous events in Irish history, is fast approaching and strangely there seems to be little sense of urgency on the part of the Government as to how they plan to commemorate it.

Surely by now preparations and plans should be at an advanced stage? Arts and Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys has made the occasional pronouncement but, like her Cabinet colleagues, does not appear to be in any hurry to outline an agenda for the commemorations.

Like many citizens, I believe that it is only right and proper that we acknowledge the heroism and self sacrifice of Pearse, Connolly and all the other volunteers who gave their lives in 1916.

Many of us believe that the ill-fated uprising was the catalyst that led to our Republic.

DETAILS

The Government may have bigger issues on its mind at present but that’s no excuse. Let’s see some more details. Personally I would hope that part of the Government’s plan will be to declare a national holiday to celebrate the event, so that the whole nation can reflect, acknowledge and pay homage to those brave men and women who gave their lives for our freedom.

Unfortunately there has been plenty of discord to date on the nature of the ceremonies. Will a British royal be invited? Should the descendants of the original insurgents be given a more central role?

Should the commemoration be militaristic, like it was on the 50th anniversary in 1966, or not? Matters weren’t helped by the shambolic PR video released last year, which failed to mention the Rising. Whatever it decided, and whenever we get to hear about it, I hope the commemoration will be marked with dignity and reverence.

To that end the Government needs to publish detailed plans soon, outlining what commemorations we can expect. What are they waiting for?

Rugby wins give our recovery a wonderful boost

THE past week has been an extraordinary one for the nation.

On Tuesday the whole world went green to celebrate our national feast day. I couldn’t but marvel in amazement and awe that so many nations and countries across the globe should acknowledge this little island of ours by lighting up some of the most iconic buildings such as the Great Wall of China, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Sydney Opera house.

It was fantastic. Last Saturday, things went stratospheric when our rugby team, under Paul O’ Connell, retained the Six Nations on a day of high drama.

The following day the ladies team (above), under Niamh Briggs, completed an Irish double by winning their Six Nations.

What momentous wins these were for both our men and women. It is extraordinary how sporting wins can lift the mood of the people. There’s a feeling that our country isbouncing back after a harsh few years – and this just copperfastens it.

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