Coronavirus: Government’s move to allow construction to continue is good politics

Politicians must put off for as long as possible any attempt to halt building amid pandemic

‘Halting everything but essential building projects boils down to choosing what is ‘essential’ in the first place.’ File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

‘Halting everything but essential building projects boils down to choosing what is ‘essential’ in the first place.’ File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Brickbats are sure to follow the Government decision to allow construction to continue for now while other businesses are shutting to help halt the spread of Covid-19. Critics are almost sure to highlight – once again – the perceived close relationship between developers and politicians as a factor in the decision.

They might be right in one way: it is a political decision, in the sense that politicians have made it. However, the Government may not have done so for the reasons they believe.

Halting everything but essential building projects boils down to choosing what is “essential” in the first place. Working that out is not easy. The word could apply to repairing flood-damaged structures in the midlands or to work on a water treatment plant.

It could embrace other things too. Long before the coronavirus crisis, we had a housing crisis, one that is likely to outlast Covid-19 by some distance. So, is housebuilding not essential? What about schools? Even roads? Try telling people in Galway that the bypass is not needed.

Our world is literally built around us. We live in homes that are built, work in offices, factories and other structures that are built, and travel between the two on roads that are built. Some of our food is even grown in buildings.

Along with that, few industries depend as heavily on politics as construction. Politicians make laws that govern planning, and implement them locally through councils. Governments decide on building roads, schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and so on.

If it comes to it, politicians will have to decide on what is essential construction. And there will be a reckoning for that. Long after voters have – hopefully – forgotten Covid-19, they will remember who halted work on that road, water treatment plant or housing development, particularly if such a delay ends up being longer than expected.

A decision to suspend most building may yet come, but for the most political of reasons – not needlessly upsetting voters – politicians may want to put it off for as long as possible.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.