OUR local Fine Gael TD, Jim Daly, is a sound politico, fixed in reality and very much in touch with what is currently happening. But after some extraordinary comments that the good gentleman made about water charges, we wonder if his Cork South West constituency has been moved mysteriously to Planet Zog.
You see, Daly argues that people who refuse to pay water charges should be hit with a €10 fine every month of their wretched lives until they owe such a whopper that they’ll face prosecution by the State – which might sound madcap and Zog-like but, on reflection, isn’t. It’s perfectly reasonable from a hardline FG perspective! And to that we say ‘doubtcha boy’ and doubles all round in Dinty’s.
What’s more, as a former máistir he doesn’t lack the linguistic talents to convince us of his sincerity.
All he’s demanding is that we sit up, be attentive and ‘focus minds’ on the need for a €120 government fine to be imposed on stubborn and defiant objectors.
Here’s what he said: ‘If water charges return next year, non-payers will be contacted and told they have a six-month “grace period” to pay the money owed.
If they do not pay. then for each month going forward in which they refuse to pay their water bill, they will be hit with a €10 fine to bring their total debt above €500, at which point they will face attachment orders and court action.”
And, he added rather primly, ‘Court cases could begin by Spring 2018.’
Yes indeed, Máistir Daly tolerates no slackers. His intentions are, of course, commendable in the eyes of FG and, if we’re interpreting them correctly, the payment of water charges instils community values as well as helping to fill State coffers. It promotes exemplary conduct among the plain people of Ireland.
Most importantly of all, a monthly fine in conjunction with the inevitable court appearance would weaken the zest for public protest and put manners on those attending raucous monster meetings that give our beautiful country such a bad name.
So, three cheers, then, for the máistir who is doing so much to instil in us the norms of responsible behaviour.
As if it were taken from one of Folens schoolbooks, the máistir’s political philosophy is simple: ‘Look here, you,’ he seems to be saying, ‘pay attention! Obey the law or you’ll end up in jail. And listen, you stupid boy, your yelping and protesting will do you no good at all when you’re hauled before the beak!’
To which we say, ‘Wow! That man is a real politico whose likes we haven’t seen since ... well ... General O’Duffy’s time!’
But hang on a min! Didn’t the government appoint an ‘expert commission’ to look at the future funding of water and didn’t it come to the sensible conclusion that the vast majority of people should not have to pay for water, and that the funding of water services for normal domestic and personal use should be out of taxation?
And didn’t that colossus of Blueshirt thinking, Finance Minister Michael Noonan, describe water charges as a ‘dead cat’ that was dragging Fine Gael to political disaster (as an ex-pedagogue ‘Baldy’ should have avoided the dead cat metaphor and instead gone for the more up-market ‘albatross’ symbol. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the albatross is a psychological burden that resembles a curse, just like Fine Gael’s water charges!).
Which all goes to show that the water charges controversy terrifies Fine Gael. On the other hand, water charges haven’t gone away.
They’ve been suspended for three months, during which time a 20-person committee will be tasked with recommending a plan before a Dáil vote in March.
And, if Daly has his way, once again Irish water could begin firing out their vile bills. (The máistir also is dead nuts against water charge refunds despite the wide range of ministers and backbenchers that have called for reimbursement).
One thing is certain. Daly is going against the flow, if you’ll pardon the pun. But as a man of principle, he’s exhibiting typical Clonakilty gallantry and a quality of spirit that determines his character and his political fearlessness. He’s rather like Hans Brinker, the boy who saved Holland by sticking his finger in a dyke that was beginning to crumble.
Also strange is the fact that he seems to have little in common with the Boss, Dame Enda. To some extent that’s understandable in light of the dreadful way the leader overlooked Daly in the promotion stakes.
Except for appointing him to four Gawd-awful committees, Enda has studiously ignored Mr Daly’s fine brain, his great political experience, his vote catching skills (a little down in the last election, but ...) and, of course, his remarkable loyalty to the party.
Mini-ministerships were doled out like lollipops in the recent carve-up but not one came his way. And that’s not fair!
Unlike other Fine Gaelers who consider Enda Kenny toxic and who are worried that his presence is detrimental to their own chances of re-election, the máistir does not harbour such dark thoughts.
He is not a backstabber in spite of his alliance with Vlad the Impaler who has emerged as a potential successor to Kenny.
Leo Varadkar, lest we forget, opened Daly’s new constituency office a few months ago. At that event, Vlad publicly welcomed the findings of an opinion poll that showed strong support for him as the next Blueshirt leader.
And, last September, at a FG gathering in Newbridge, Co Kildare, Daly and Brendan Griffin were reported to have warned the party that time was slipping by and Fine Gael would have to discuss the leadership issue pretty soon.
A topic of conversation certain to entertain a crowd on a dark wintry night is whether or not Daly exhibits poor judgement when confronted with hot political controversies. Some might say he’s off the wall on the water charges issue.
Others haul up the ambulance controversy as an example of what they consider his skew ways political thinking. (He accused ‘vested interests’ within the ambulance campaign of ‘reckless and opportunistic scaremongering’).
And of course, his assertion that teachers were creaming off €2.5 billion in allowances won him no kudos among his former colleagues.
A teachers union, the ASTI, publicly took him to task for ‘maliciously’ fuelling a belief that teachers were highly paid in terms of allowances. The union warned of ‘teacher-bashing’ and that ‘to talk of teachers’ allowances as perks or bonuses was utter nonsense.’
What is certain is that Daly pulls no punches when expressing a political point of view. But – and here’s a thought – in terms of advancing his career his outspokenness hasn’t done him much good so far.
Nonetheless, it is to be welcomed as a feature rarely seen in Irish politics.