Posted on 25th January 2019

Slane Castle

I have to say I find it absolutely exasperating when the government won’t tell the truth.  Last week it was blatantly obvious that the gaffe-prone Shane Ross let the cat out of the bag about the possibility of a hard border if the U.K. crashes out of the E.U.  Then the Minister for Agriculture, Donal Creed, takes us all for a bunch of idiots by refusing multiple times to answer a related question on Morning Ireland.  It takes E.U. Greek Commissioner, Margaritis Schinas to spell out the blunt truth if the U.K. leaves without a deal, of course there will be a hard border.  Frankly, how could it be otherwise.  This government has an absolute duty to tell us what they intend to do should these circumstances arise.

As I outlined last week, Leo and his pals are very nervous about all of this and it relates to how they have handled the backstop issue.  Just because the Brits have made a balls-up of the negotiations is no excuse for our government to leave themselves open to accusations of ineptitude.  It was obvious from the very beginning that the backstop was going to present a major political difficulty.  This was magnified when Theresa May became dependent on the DUP.  By taking such an inflexible approach Leo and Simon Coveney were boxing themselves into a corner.  One has to wonder if they had taken the trouble to consult more mature politicians such as Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny whether a more subtle approach would have evolved.  After all they had very considerable experience in the relevant corridors of power.  They would have understood that this was all about trying to drive a round peg into a square hole.  The tragedy of all of this is the damage this has done to Anglo-Irish relations and the heightening of tensions in the North when the lack of an assembly has created a positive vacuum which is positively dangerous.  This is all high-wire stuff and one can only pray that somehow out of this mess a pragmatic solution emerges.  The E.U. makes much of adhering to the terms of the Anglo- Irish agreement so in the spirit of the sentiments it expressed, surely allowances should be made for the two governments to talk to each other directly.  Who cares who is at fault, the critical thing is to find a solution.  Failure to do so would be an indictment on all involved, including our own government.

Now to return to the cost overruns on the Children’s Hospital.  How nauseating that PWC is now to be paid €450,000 to investigate the matter.  How disgraceful that the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure, Robert Watt, has refused to appear in front of the Oireachtas Health Committee to answer questions.  Has nobody explained to him that public servants are supposed to serve the general public ?  The Taoiseach needs to step in here and take charge.  The incompetence is on a staggering scale and quite frankly the general public are deeply shocked by this entire affair.  Fine Gael as a party used to represent fiscal prudence.  This scandal has happened on their watch.  The Taoiseach may think by swanning around Davos he is playing for Team Ireland, but in truth he is squandering his party’s reputation at home.

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