Water-charges fiasco has left a stain on everyone

HOW ironic that the company charged with decontaminating our water supply is now the most contaminated brand of the moment.

The utter mess that is Irish Water has polluted all four, main political parties, and allowed the Lefty-pendents who want to shut it down to bathe in a pool of self-righteous purity.

The damage done to the Coalition by the backwash has left a dirty tide mark they will never wash away before the election, and Fianna Fáil’s opposition is compromised, because if things had been left to Micheál Martin, and his fellow bailout buddies, we would have been paying more, earlier, for our water.

But it is the impact on Sinn Féin that has been most intriguing and unexpected.

Irish Water even contaminated, and halted, the political juggernaut that is Sinn Féin, in the Dublin South West by-election, as the party amended its message to appear ready for power. It abandoned the knee-jerk populism that had brought it to the very point of support and had given it a real shot of being in the Coalition mix after the next election.

Socialist Paul Murphy, sheltering under the more transfer-friendly banner of the Anti-Austerity Alliance, tapped into the rebel mood of the nation against the tap tax: his posters urged people first to not pay, and to only vote for him as a second line of revolt.

Looking for government-ready legitimacy, Sinn Féin put out a confused message: The leadership insisted it would pay, while the local candidate said he would join the mass boycott.

Indeed, the confusion was exacerbated, for a while, as it seemed that Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams did not know if he would have to pay at all, despite being a TD for Louth.

After speculation about just how many properties Mr Adams owns (that average industrial wage of about €33,000 that Sinn Féin TDs insist they take home certainly appears quite elastic), it turned out he would pay for his holiday home in Donegal. This because it seems he stays with a friend when in his constituency.

Mr Adams is lucky to have an awful lot of generous friends, as we recall the ones who paid for him to jet off to the United States for medical care last year.

Mr Adams got very huffy when this column, and other journalists, asked him, at the time, about that trip and whether it smacked of hypocrisy.

The Sinn Féin leader was most put out at the questioning and seemed to believe he was above such scrutiny.

As if there would not be uproar if Mr Martin, or Enda Kenny when opposition leader, had decried the government of the day for not putting enough resources into the health service, and then swanned off to get treatment abroad, leaving the “little people” for whom they claimed to speak languishing on the waiting lists at home, rather than stand with them in a show of solidarity?

But, then, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have, presumably, never operated their own de facto rape-and-sexual-assault investigation unit, as the wider republican movement, of which Sinn Féin boasts about being an integral part, evidently has.

This when Sinn Féin has regularly, and rightly, denounced the Catholic Church for ‘dealing with’ sex abusers away from the prying eyes, and objectivity, of the outside world.

But, then, presidential candidates Michael D Higgins and Dana were never asked if they could help point the authorities to the shallow graves of ‘disappeared’ murder victims, nor what they may have known about the murders of Irish soldiers and gardaí, in the way that Martin McGuinness was in the 2011 campaign to be first citizen of the Republic.

It all points to the stark otherness of Sinn Féin.

An otherness from the political mainstream that needs to be speedily, and honestly, decontaminated if their participation in government after the next, or subsequent, general election, is not going to send an anxious shiver down the spine of many people in this country.

But the Irish Water political contamination is rife, as Tánaiste Joan Burton’s evident hatred of Sinn Féin saw her cut a haughty, uncaring figure at leaders’ questions, for the second week in a row, as, again, she dismissed genuine fears that the poor and the vulnerable were being made to suffer by the imposition of water taxes. She did this to score political points off Mary Lou McDonald.

And unable to get much traction from the water-tax action, due to their complicity in its creation with the troika, Fianna Fáil have, once again, turned in on themselves after the slating they received from voters in the by-elections, in which they proved as transfer-lonely as Sinn Féin.

In a rare moment of self-awareness, former cabinet minister Willie O’Dea announced that when he looked into the mirror he did not see a messiah for the party.

“I say this with the greatest respect to my colleagues — I respect each and every one of them — I look around the table, in my mind’s eye, and I don’t see the messiah and when I look in the mirror I don’t see him either,” he said.

The Damascene moment of clarity came in the aftermath of Fianna Fáil’s failure, yet again, to capitalise on either the anger at Irish Water or the general air of incompetence surrounding the Coalition at the Roscommon by-election and the subsequent murmurs of a leadership challenge against Mr Martin.

The downbeat consensus of the parliamentary party appeared to be: ’’We haven’t really got anyone better.’ Hardly a ringing endorsement of leadership.

With Fianna Fáil convinced the Coalition will cut and run for an early election, late next year (and, really, the only ‘give-away’ part of this Budget was the clear give away that everything is now being geared to getting just enough Labour seats at the next election to prop-up a reduced Fine Gael in power), all eyes have turned to the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election slated for January, which is being billed as Martin’s very last chance to muck things up.

The election has been caused by the elevation of Phil Hogan to the prime position as European Commissioner for Agriculture.

Because, after presiding over the cack-handed catastrophes that were Irish Water, the introduction of the property tax, and so many other drive-by calamities, Mr Hogan takes on the €60bn role on October 31 — Halloween, (insert own joke here).

So, Mr Irish Water is to bring his lucky touch to Brussels, so it could yet become the unloved utility that contaminates a whole continent.


Lifestyle

Meet Tony the Turtle.How to explain Covid-19 to kids on the spectrum

More From The Irish Examiner