The Irish Mail on Sunday

Year Zero-itis is catching

- Joe Duffy

WHY is it in this country that we seem to remember everything yet learn nothing? Another week and yet more examples of collective corporate and political amnesia . New superquang­o Irish Water is in full public relations offensive mode, flitting from one media outlet to another to trumpet a new dawn for the Irish public.

It forgets to mention the cost to every family, but it also forgets that, up to a couple of weeks ago, we had been paying one group of people handsomely through our taxes to give us a water supply.

Now the new group – which, in the main, is made up of people from the old group – now has spanking new offices and expenses and calls itself Irish Water.

According to Irish Water, the system – run by the old crowd – has failed miserably. More than 40% of water leaks into the ground and tens of thousands of homes have to endure boil notices before they can use their supply.

Thank goodness the ‘ new’ old crowd are here to sort it out. We just have to give them even more money. It’s as if it’s Year Zero in Irish Water.

But what of the vast sums of money that the Irish taxpayer has poured into the water system since the foundation of the State? It seems that while almost every county council was picking up internatio­nal awards for their new HQ buildings while the Celtic Tiger reigned, they simply ignored what they were being paid to do – supply safe water.

And while councillor­s were flitting from one flimsy conference to another, collecting expenses every time they passed ‘go’, our water wasn’t just flowing under the bridge, it was going down the drain.

But that will all change now as Irish Water promises us more ‘headroom’ in the water supply as it ‘operationa­lises’ the system.

Yes, it appears new bills call for new jargon.

And as if we needed another example of how bankrupt we have become since the State decided to bail out the banks, we now have come to the realisatio­n that the next generation will be worse off than before.

Even little advances such as a power shower will become a metered luxury in the brave new world created by Anglo Irish Bank, sleeping regulators and in-fighting politician­s.

The bathroom will be a battlegrou­nd for families: imagine that in our rain-sodden land, 100 years after winning independen­ce, we have to worry about the cost of flushing the loo.

Irish people are, in truth, more worried about water charges than they are about the taping of garda phone calls and Alan Shatter’s internal department­al postal system when he was justice minister.

But the appointmen­t of a new minister allowed the politician­s to invoke the Year Zero defence. Every question about what is to be done about our broken justice system is met with the reply that ‘the new minister is in the job less than a week’.

How about asking the ‘best minister for justice in the history of the State’ – as he was described by his colleagues two hours before he resigned – if he has any views on what should be done?

The politician­s may press the Year Zero button every time they want to ignore the past. However, many Irish families have unfortunat­ely been forced back to square one. And the only way they feel they can get that message across is a protest vote next Friday.

It could and should have been so different.

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