herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Yobs to the left of us, gardai to the right ... stuck in the middle

So, the beleaguered Irish Water company has just realised that it will take at least a quarter-of-a-century to fix our leaky pipes.

Who knew? Not John Tierney when Ivan Yates interviewed him on Newstalk's Breakfast Show last year. And this week the spokesperson for Irish Water, Jerry Grant, said he wouldn't speak to Ivan or Chris unless the show revealed what questions he would be asked beforehand.

Who gave this shower the right to dictate to the media (asking questions on our behalf) what questions they will or won't answer? Who's paying their wages?

lunatic

The boys from GMC Sierra had a van parked on our road this week. There had been multiple pleas on Facebook for local people to get out and protest against them, but only a few hardy souls turned up.

I wasn't in a position to join the protesters, and even if I had been I probably would have passed. I think those workers have a hard enough job.

This is despite the fact that I have, like most of my friends and neighbours, taken part in a few of the water protest marches. Which I suppose puts me among the so-called-lunatic-fringe. We don't see it that way, though.

Despite what the Government asserts, many of us who protested would gladly support water preservation - we already ensure we use the least amount of water as we go about our daily chores.

Yes, Enda, we turn the tap off when we brush our teeth.

Many of us would also be happy to pay for a good, clean water system, like they do in other European countries that provide decent public services. The problem, of course, is that we don't get decent public services here.

They've been devastatingly eroded by austerity politics. After years of a brutal economic programme, which seems to have hit the average working family the hardest, the Government sets up a super-quango whose first priority appears to be the well-being of its employees, associates and, well, its cronies.

Irish Water was a black financial hole from its inception.

It was also the ultimate two fingers to a vast swathe of people who will be suffering financially for years due to the neglect and bad decisions of former politicians, bankers, the regulator and auditors. Did those responsible pay for their mistakes? No. Their jobs, their pensions, their gold-plated bonuses were never at risk, the thinking being: just smack another whack of tax and charges on the little people - they'll suck up the cost of a disastrous administration. Sure, isn't that what they're there for?

We were informed we couldn't protest against the property tax because Revenue would extract it from us regardless, so the water charges issue was the only one on which downtrodden middle Ireland could protest and actually get heard.

Which we did. In our hundreds of thousands. And we felt good about it.

Then many of us, myself included, ignored the letter that came from Irish Water asking us to sign up with them.

Yes, we know we risk having to pay yet more fines and payments in the future, but it's all part of our peaceful protest against the cynical quango that is Irish Water - and those who set it up.

But then Paul Murphy et al went and ruined it all when they trapped Joan Burton and her assistant in her car.

If I was imprisoned in my car for hours by a rowdy, obscenity- screaming crowd - and a TD with a loudhailer asking importantly "Will we let her go?" - I'd be damn sure to get the guards involved. This was not acceptable behaviour in any way, shape of form.

Other incidents targeting President Higgins and some Irish Water employees have been equally distasteful.

creches

But fast-forward and the arrests start. Six gardai are sent just to pick up little Paul Murphy in his jim-jams at seven in the morning. Other public representatives are arrested.

Then ordinary protesters - teenagers - have also been taken in. Will they be raiding the schools and creches next?

The arrests were manna to the previously discredited protesters even before the news that five had been jailed for contempt of court.

It's a mess, isn't it? One that has left many ordinary people with second thoughts about holding future peaceful protests.

Which is a worrying sign for citizens of a Western democracy.

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