Dear Enda…. about IRISH WATER

Yesterday on the Twitter machine, Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor with the Irish Independent posed the following question.  “If @irishwater were to somehow start all over again, what advice would you give to the government?”  140 characters were not enough. 
Dear Enda
There is little doubt that Irish Water a complete mess and a PR disaster.  This is the result of rushing at it like a horny bull at a gate into a field of attractive cows, whose eyes are only on the prize, in your Government’s case – the tax revenue.  Remember what your mammy taught you – “fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.”
But the Government has a bigger problem.  The imposition of yet another tax on the beleaguered people of this country has finally pushed us to boiling anger.  And this anger is not just, as some commentators would have us believe, because we live in a soggy country where it rains all the time resulting in our having some kind of psychological reluctance to pay for the very stuff that often makes us feel damp and miserable.
We are angry because we have had enough.  We are angry because this is a tax too far.  We are angry because we now know that in two years time most of us; especially those of us who live in urban centres are going to be fleeced with the unfair property tax that is calculated on value of our homes as opposed to square footage.  
We are angry because this is how we are repaid for our compliance with all the austerity that has been forced upon us for debts that we didn’t incur.  It is the people who have allowed your Government and the previous one, to enforce the cuts and taxes that have given you great kudos abroad.  Ireland’s so called recovery is not your triumph – it belongs to the people of this country. 
But we are now saying enough is enough.  We have no more to give.
But let’s park the anger for a moment.  There is obviously a case to be made for the payment of water and the treatment of waste.  In principle I would imagine most of us would accept this.  So here is what I suggest you do.  If, that is, you really are planning for an infrastructure project that will serve this country and our people for the next number of decades and not (as most of us suspect) you are just seeing Irish Water as another way to raise more tax Euros in the short term.
Streamlined, small efficient company
Irish Water should be in the first instance a small and very efficient company.  It should not be a retirement home for workers who previously have been employed by the local councils. There should be no talk of bonuses or whatever other terms have been used to describe same.  Ditto with car allowances and other nonsense.
Fix the leaks
In the first instance Irish Water should be charged with fixing the leaky system.  And don’t give us the line about how will they pay for it?  If Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council can spend €33 million on a monster library, if the GAA can secure €30 million for the redevelopment of Pairc Ui Chaoimh, money will be found.  How much have you spent on the other ill fated project currently on the table, the Children’s Hospital?  This year we will pay in the region of €4 billion in that other awful austerity tax the Universal Social Charge.  As usual in politics – there is always the money – it’s a question of priorities. 
Grants for rainwater harvesting and other water conservation measures
If water is as precious a resource as Irish Water have tried to tell us it is and if we are serious about changing our attitudes to water then it is vital that the Government introduce incentives to allow people to invest a little now in measures that would conserve water in the future.  To me this is a glaring omission to the current plan for introducing water charges.  Bringing in such incentives would also have a positive PR bounce as it would give the impression that instead of being ripped off we are all in this together.  See how we took to recycling?  We can easily do similar with water conservation.
Install meters
Once the company is seen to be fit for purpose and the leaky system has been brought into the 21st century, then Irish Water can begin the process of fitting meters.  But could I suggest that most people would like a meter that they could read easily – similar to the ESB or Gas Meter and not something that exists solely under the ground at the end of the driveway.  We have never paid for water as a separate utility before and most of us have little or no idea about how much we actually use.  It is vital to build trust so a meter that is visible to householders I think is essential.
When all of the above has been completed then it is appropriate to announce a date for billing to start.  I would suggest no earlier than 2020.
Finally – once we are paying for water – there should be no talk of call out charges.  If there is a gas leak – do we have to pay the Gas Company to attend? 
I know that as Taoiseach you are surrounded by advisors that cost me and the rest of us plenty money.  You might like to review their input Enda.  Because Irish Water is rapidly going to go down in history as the biggest government mess ever – eclipsing the E Voting machines and Children’s Hospital and Incinerator messes that have preceded it.
Once you start bullying your electorate Enda you lose them.  This project needs to be completely reimagined.  Irish Water needs to be completely overhauled before you can do anything.  Then slowly, bringing your people with you, there might be some chance of success.  And your legacy may just survive… and I know that’s very important.  Not to us… but to you and your fellow Ministers.
Sincerely

Barbara Scully

P.S oh and by the way Enda, tinkering about with allowances etc is not going to quell the anger… in fact it may do exactly the opposite.  We know you are on the ropes on this one… it’s time for time out and a total rethink and redesign.  

REFERENDUM RESULT : A VICTORY FOR THE PEOPLE

As I write the result of the Seanad Referendum has just been announced.  The country has voted No to abolishing Seanad Eireann.  Reform – well that’s a whole other day’s work, particularly since Enda stated clearly that a No vote will not result in this Government undertaking any reform of the second house.
I am personally much cheered by the independence of mind shown by the Irish electorate on this issue. Against the massed armies of Sinn Fein, Fine Gael and Labour we had only Fianna Fail as a party urging a ‘No’ vote.  Fianna Fail, who are still taking baby steps back towards their rehabilitation with the electorate, certainly seemed to have judged the zeitgeist just right.  But it would be foolish for Michael Martin or any of his colleagues to get too excited about the victory of their side over the Government parties and the only other party of opposition in this referendum.  In my opinion although Martin performed ably during the two TV debates, this is not his victory. 
What is important about the result of the Seanad referendum was the range of independent, credible and passionate voices on the No side.  Probably most prominent of these was Professor John Crowne whose insightful intelligent contributions were hugely important in this debate.  Senator Katherine Zappone was another voice who articulated her view with zeal and enthusiasm.  Duirmuid Ferriter too and in the latter days of the campaign poet Theo Dorgan also spoke out to retain the Seanad.   
Political parties would be wise to learn that the electorate of this country are not stupid.  We don’t like being bullied into making a decision on a matter that no one was campaigning about.  We were cajoled into believing that abolishing the second house would save us €20m and allow us to enjoy sacking a load of politicians.  As a nation of bullshitters, we see right through bullshit.
As we stand at the beginning of the decade of commemoration of the events which lead to Ireland gaining her freedom, it is heartening to know that we continue to value that freedom and our democracy.  We might be a bit slow to protest against unfair austerity but we have shown that we do cherish the very freedom that the last Government pawned in order to pay the gambling debts of a bust bank. 

So Michael Martin – you judged it right and you ran a good campaign.  But this is not your victory.  The victory is the peoples.  And the people, mirroring events almost a century ago were led by academics, thinkers, poets and doctors.  What we need now are new political leaders.  If this folly of a referendum is to teach us anything it must be that!

DO WICCANS HAVE HYMNS?

As I listened to Enda Kenny’s speech last week, I could feel the hair stand on the back of my neck. Not because Enda is a powerful orator – because he is not – but because I was aware that I was listening to history being made. I was listening to Ireland moving out of the shadow of the Catholic Church and into the light of a new dawn.

I have long struggled with my relationship with the Catholic Church. It was easy to turn my back on it completely when I was a teenager, only visiting at Christmas. The ostentatious wealth of the church with its hierarchy of celibate men living in luxury at parish level and in the splendour of palaces as Bishops, galled me and seemed very far from the life of Jesus. But as I got older I became aware of a deep need for spiritual element to my life… there was a void where the church used to be. I really deeply wanted to feel a connection with ‘my higher self’, my soul, my connection to the divine, or all that is.

Then my brother died, very suddenly and I was lost. So was my family. A local priest visited us and helped us prepare for the Catholic ceremonies of death – the removal and funeral. That priest was wonderful. He spent hours with us – learning about my brother so that on the day he delivered a homily that was so ‘right’ and so personal about my brother, it was almost impossible to believe he had never met him. To this day, I think the very best ritual of Catholic Church is the funeral Mass.

After that I thought that maybe I should stay with the church – try to affect change from within? But when my second daughter was born, almost 13 years ago I had something of a spiritual awakening. Deep in my bones I suddenly became aware in a very raw way that the Catholic Church’s attitude to women was not only wrong but deeply offending to me and indeed to God. Who was this Father God? Having just given birth I knew that God has a feminine face. I wondered should I become a Wiccan.

As my children (all daughters) got older they attended the local National School and so were ‘streamed’ for Communion and later Confirmation. As they began preparations I told them it was entirely up to them as to whether they wished to make either sacrament. I did this only to appease my conscience – not because I thought they would opt out – think of the money they would not make! But that’s another blog post. So we embarked together on the preparations with me constantly reminding them that most of what the church teaches especially around sexuality is completely wrong. “Confession is also nonsense”, I told them. It was far from ideal in my mind – a typical Irish solution to an Irish problem.

So we are now (more or less) all official Catholics in name only. We don’t go to Mass. I have tried to teach them the comfort and power of praying. I have tried to help them to imagine a different God to the Father God of the Catholic Church. I have stressed the importance of personal responsibility and of helping each other. I have told them that Jesus asked us to “love one another”. Everything else is baloney.

Had the so called ‘Princes of the Christ’ remembered this simple command, perhaps they would have handled the “rape and torture of children” and the paedophile priests who committed such horrible crimes, differently. Perhaps they would have done the right thing.

I know I am someone who has stood with one foot still inside the church door for the last 13 years. I have kept it there hoping that the Church would change. I was afraid of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And so I held on – on the edges.

But it’s very unsatisfactory to live like this, especially when I have a deep need for a spiritual dimension that is rooted in community. I can plough a lone furrow with my own brand of spiritual code, but I miss walking into my church at Christmas greeting my friends and neighbours. I know that the next time I have to face a close death, I will be looking to the only place I know in order to help me make sense of death and to facilitate a fitting send off for my loved one!

I have not entirely resolved any of this dilemma. But I no longer feel alone. Enda Kenny’s speech in the Dail last week, was powerful because he articulated the feelings of the majority of people on this island. He said what I am thinking. I was relieved to hear his anger and outrage. I was also relieved to know that our Government, unlike all those that preceded it, will no longer allow the Catholic Church to place itself above the law and beyond reproach.

I would love to think that the Catholic Church might reinvent itself completely from the top down, divesting itself of its wealth and pompous attitude, allowing women to take an equal role and proclaiming that sex is a wonderful gift from God. I wish it would because I will still miss the way Christmas hymns sound in a sacred space, the feeling of community that belonging to a church brings, and the rituals to mark life’s milestones.

I know they have no churches but I wonder do Wiccans have nice hymns.

Image of the Triple Goddess – honouring women in the three phases – Maiden, Mother and Crone (moon in her waxing, full and waning phases). By ecowitch on photobucket


I CAN SEE THE FUTURE – ITS FULL OF GLADIOLI


Yesterday I tweeted something reflecting my frustration with the man who may well be our next Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. His reluctance to engage in the leader’s debate tomorrow night on TV3 with the bulldog of Irish journalism, Vincent Browne leaves me breathless…. with anger. He is looking to be elected to the most powerful job in the land at a critical time in Irish history and he won’t go into a TV studio because he has a problem with Vincent Browne.

Vincent Browne’s interviewing tactics can definitely be suspect at times, but he often is reflecting the anger that most of us, the people of Ireland feel at the moment. His late night programme is also now one of the pillars of Irish Current Affairs viewing.

We desperately need to feel that our next leader will have balls of steel and a natural drive to place the good of this country above all else, during their term of office. If the polls are right, we are about to elect Enda Kenny into this office. A man who at best is holding a grudge and at worst is afraid of what Vincent Browne may expose.

Last week this photo of our leader in waiting appeared in all the national papers. It is a brilliant photo and at first glance gave us all a great laugh. But take a close look at it again. Enda is wearing an expression that is vaguely familiar. Yep, it is one worn by President George Bush. That same unsure, rabbit in headlights, shifty look that Dubya often exhibited. The look that says “I’m about to be found out any minute.” It’s a look that inspires hilarity not confidence. And I am not going to even begin to analyse the look on the unfortunate dogs face. That dog is capturing the emotion that many of us are feeling… the sense that it all is going wrong and we are powerless to stop it.

I have no doubt that we will entertain the world if Enda becomes Taoiseach. George Bush did provide plenty of laughs. It’s all very funny when it’s the leader of another country, even leader of the most powerful country in the world. But we are depending on our next Government to lead us back out of this black hole of recession and debt as quickly and painlessly as possible. It therefore it most definitely not at all funny for the electorate.

Which brings me back to Twitter. One of my British twitter friends (@whyjay99 should you wish to follow her), on seeing my Enda tweet enquired if I meant Edna as she had never heard of the name Enda. There followed a lightbulb moment when I glimpsed our future.

That’s where we are going I’m telling you. Our next Taoiseach shall be christened Dame Enda Kenny. The man who, like the antipodean character who describes herself as a Superstar Housewife, thinks he’s a superstar politican! A misguided man who very possibly will sweep into power on wave of votes the likes Fine Gael haven’t seen in years. And he will think it is because we love him. Get your gladioli ready people!

p.s. I should point out that I am not affiliated with any political party! I have yet to decide how I will vote!