Analysis: Jaysus Enda, I think the ‘water conservation’ cover’s been blown

As one Cabinet Minister put it: "Jaysus Eric, I think our cover’s been blown."

Bizarrely, Health Minister Leo Varadkar actually tweeted that remark to himself after his secret Facebook alter-ego, Eric Howell, was exposed — but he could easily have been talking about the fake air of competence the Government has been foolishly trying to maintain amid the chaos contaminating Irish Water.

That dam finally burst on Saturday (MON) after the damnation of the people was conveyed by nationwide protests that have finally made an arrogant executive realise just how unloved its out-of-touch mega-utility is.

And thus they found themselves retreating on all fronts for fear of being swept away at the next election if they did not belatedly face the reality of the public relations calamity and charging chaos they crashed into public consciousness.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly signalled everything from a referendum on enshrining public ownership in a referendum, to threatening to bring in the Revenue to scare people off a mass payment boycott.

And the ripples of revolt that have swelled into shock waves of political protest have hit the opposition as well — as Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald performed a double emergency somersault as they suddenly announced they would not pay their water bills.

This is curious as the only thing that has changed since they both said they would stump up the money last month is that Sinn Féin was outflanked on the left by an anti-water charge candidate in the Dublin South West by-election, so their move is clearly all about crude politicking rather than high-minded principles.

After unwittingly exposing the scandal of Irish Water’s culture of extravagance last January when he let slip about the 50m the utility spent on consultants, its head John Tierney finally said sorry after inflaming public anger further with his last break from hiding when he announced how humbled he was by the brilliance of his staff.

Also sorry was Fine Gael’s Cork City councillor Laura McGonigle after she briefly became the Marie Antoinette of Munster with her “let them drink rain”-style Facebook comment at the weekend. But we suspect Ms McGonigle will be even sorrier when she is flushed down the political drain by voters at the next election.

The wrath of voters has also awoken Enda Kenny from his water-bed slumbers as he has announced he now intends to bring “clarity” to what Irish Water is for and how much it will charge — better late than never as the Government message on these key elements so far has been as murky as a glass of the boil-notice muck that flows from Roscommon taps.

After a day of all-round embarrassment for the Government, Eric Howell was disappeared from the internet as mysteriously as he emerged after red-faced medical professional, Mr Varadkar killed off the Facebook Mr Hyde to his Cabinet Dr Jekyll with a lethal press of the delete button.

But, unfortunately, it will not be so easy for the Government to wash its hands of the Frankenstein’s monster of its own creation that is Irish Water.

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