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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Like bin and property charges, we'll have a whinge then pay for water

During the worst of the recession, several commentators bemoaned the fact that the Irish did not take to the streets in civil disobedience like many of our European cousins. The general view was that we're somehow a weak bunch, born without the spine of the Greeks.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We're not bad on the courage front.

The problem is, we're pretty good at common sense. We looked at the economic situation, saw it was a complete dog's breakfast, then correctly assessed that the course of action outlined by the Troika was probably the best option. So, we got on with it.

Now, five years on, our economy is growing like a weed. Was it fun? No. Is it over? Not yet. Would we have done better if we'd taken to the streets? Probably not.

So why then, if we are so restrained and common-sensical, are we going bananas about water charges?

After all, pipes cost money, thousands of fresh-water and waste-water treatment plants ain't cheap and lots of our citizens already provide for drinking water and sewage.

We all know that it's got to be paid. So, why the fuss?

Well, fundamentally, it's because (and I don't want to get too technical here) we love a good moan. Unlike other EU states, we don't want to fight against our government - we want to fight with them.

Like an old, loveless married couple, we want to bicker, whinge and snipe.

Now, before you get all high-and-mighty and start quoting poverty and penury, those who are too poor to pay are obviously not who I'm talking about. But the million people who failed to sign up for water charges are not all in the too-poor-to-pay category.

Not by a long shot. A lot of them are in the 'I'm-overdue-a-mega-whine' category.

It's worth remembering, the water-charge debacle is not the first time this type of national moan has occurred.

Remember bin charges? People taking to the streets and the airwaves, threatening all-sorts and blocking bin lorries. Moaning. Remember the second home tax? People roaring about negative equity and being reluctant landlords and swearing they'd never pay? Whingeing. Remember the property tax? People falling over to swear they'd never cough up. Sniping.

In every instance, they roared, then they paid. Just like they'll pay the water charges. And those in power know that - because just like the old married couple, they know what leads to a marriage break-up and what doesn't: medical cards cause divorces, water charges don't.

Not yet, at least.

Time to harness this ingenuity

This week has been an extraordinary display of youth resourcefulness, planning, teamwork and dedication. All over the country, gangs of young people have been sourcing, acquiring, transporting and preparing enough flammable material to torch Manchester.

On one inner city street, I saw lads with milk carts, hauling several hundred kilos of forklift pallets like happy ants, while another group wheeled a 200kg tractor tyre six inches bigger than the tallest of them.

If we could find a way to get these kids to put this much thought and ingenuity into something useful (as opposed to creating problems for the Fire Brigade) we'd be the greatest country in the world.

Russia's subtle f-you to States

The Russian space agency has offered NASA help with deliveries to the international space station following the explosion of a US rocket.

Bet that offer was nearly as much fun to make as the one from Cuba promising to send doctors to the States after Hurricane Katriona.

"Hey, incompetent, imperialism yank, can we offer you some of the fruits of mother Russia's communist experiment to make up for your own failures?"

The only way Russia could insult them more is if they offered to launch the rocket from Crimea.

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