Great (and passionate) analysis from Fergus Finlay on what’s eating at the coalition government’s popularity in Dublin… To paraphrase him in his Examiner column somewhat, it’s not a communication problem, it’s a fecking political management problem… I’ll let him explain what he means (I suspect you would never have to say this so explicitly to anyone in Fianna Fail):
So what do I mean by political management? It’s actually pretty simple, and maybe it’s best illustrated by a current example.
The Government gets involved in an entirely self-made controversy. It’s not about a household charge, because the majority of people either support that or are resigned to it. It’s about how the charge should be collected. And with the best intentions in the world, the Government, and especially the relevant minister, makes a complete dog’s dinner out of the whole thing.
But the controversy dies down a bit, after the minister has taken all sorts of heat. And the Government heaves a sigh of relief, because they have to conduct a controversial referendum campaign. It’s about Europe. It’s both vital and urgent, a real test of the government’s mettle. It needs total concentration for the next six weeks.
And then, last weekend, a story appears in the Sunday Times about the imminence of water metering, and the likelihood that everyone in Ireland could end up paying €300 for one of life’s most basic requirements. The first politician who’s asked about it is Eamon Gilmore. He says, simply, truthfully, and effectively, “we’ve made no decisions about that”. End of controversy. Back to concentrating on the referendum.
Until a succession of ministers, starting with the Taoiseach, start falling over themselves to contradict the Tánaiste. Within hours we’re told that we won’t have to pay for the installation of the meters, but we will have to buy them. Then we’re told that these meters, which cost about forty quid cash, will be paid for by way of a standing charge of 40 quid a year — for 20 years! By the end of the week they’ve created a new company — and a new controversy about whether appropriate tendering was done — and they’ve given some regulator or other a wider mandate. But they still can’t tell us how much our water is going to cost. Oh, and by the way, all of this messing is about something that will not happen for another two years.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty