There is hardly an issue in Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s in-tray that, no matter how circuitous the route, cannot be traced back to a failure of accountability.
Our failure to meet climate obligations, the unsatisfactory departure of two Garda commissioners, the persistent disappointment of our health service, and, especially, the huge overruns in the national children’s hospital are symptoms of a culture where systems fail but people, no matter how indifferent, survive.
We have no real accountability.
Mr Varadkar yesterday promised the terms of reference for a review of how the children’s hospital project spiralled out of control will be revised so individuals might be held accountable.
It suggests the penny has dropped at last. That welcome must be tempered until it is clear what “being held to account” means in this context.
All too often it means being suspended on full pay — in the real world that’s known as a holiday.
All too often, “being held to account” can mean a diversion to a quiet backwater where an individual threads water until pension day arrives.
Unfortunately, experience justifies this cynicism and anger but if Mr Varadkar’s promise changes that culture, it will be a great achievement.
Unfortunately, this issue allows sanction and ambition to be conflated.
Rather than an act of censure, accountability is a tide that lifts all boats and could be a positive force in a society where there is none.