Lack of charisma is something often associated with Fine Gael over the years but even for them outright political suicide is a new unfathomable stupidity. Why would those who have not paid water charges pay them now? There is an election looming and some in opposition are promising the abolishment of Irish Water if elected.
More bills are arriving in the post requesting the latest water charges for the third quarter of 2015. The latest figures available suggest that at most 55% of the public have paid some water charges. The whole affair has been a disaster from start to finish. Firstly people were asked to pay for a water system that didn’t work properly and in many cases didn’t even provide clean water. While interviewing a woman in Donaghmede in 2014, she told me that the quality of water was so bad that they had to have water filters fitted in their house.
“When they change the filters, it’s about €90 for the annual service on it,” she said
So this woman and many people like her would have been expected to pay water charges on top of what they were paying to clean their water. It is baffling to think that the government and Irish Water did not fix the water systems first and then try to recoup the cost through some type of tax or charge. But it is typical of this government’s bullying tactics. Pay up because it’s law! Because it’s mandatory everyone has to pay it. Thankfully, this does not wash with the Irish public any more.
For far too long people in this country were afraid to speak out against the church and state. If this scandal has achieved anything, it is perhaps that now Irish people know the difference between breaking the law and fighting for justice. Parallels can be drawn between the government’s treatment of the Irish Water affair and the abuse scandals in the church. They have tried to abuse and bully the public into paying charges that the majority of society has deemed unjust. Time and time again the people have said no and time and time again the government have ignored its electorate and carried on regardless. If Fine Gael or Labour do not secure a role in the next government, the fiasco of Irish water will surely have played its part.
Fine Gael have played this one so badly that their combined intelligence as a party has to be questioned. In a political sense it is almost irrelevant whether Irish Water will be abolished or not. What is relevant is the ammunition the government has given to its opponents to defeat them in the upcoming election.
It is not just the issue of Irish Water that has been handled so badly but also the civil right to protest against it. Citizens of this country were prevented from protesting effectively by their own government. Why would anyone vote for a party or parties that violate their civil rights? Thirty two people have been charged with various offences in relation to water meter protests in the last week. Eighteen people were charged in relation to a protest in Jobstown last November. It has become so ludicrous that anti-austerity TD Paul Murphy along with fifteen others have been charged with falsely imprisoning Tánaiste Joan Burton at this protest. Why has Joan Burton not spoken out to end this charade? It is sad to think that the Tánaiste of this country does not understand that two hours of her time sitting in her car is very little sacrifice to make for the civil right to protest.
The bankers and developers of this country have yet to be held accountable for bringing Ireland to its knees and yet people are being brought to court for protesting against an unjust water charge. Many lessons can be drawn from the behaviour of the last two governments in Ireland who incidentally represent the government of this country since the formation of the state. Both of the largest parties on this island have historically ruled on the basis of do as I say and not as I do. It has been one law for the rich and one for the poor. Collectively as a nation we must look to the future and not be afraid to vote for a new alternative to this old stagnant two tier way of government.
If we do not actively stand up and vote for something new, the abuse that our nation has felt at the hands of successive governments will only continue.