Dáil Sketch: Enda’s galley slaves send him in well armed on the Sinn Féin budget

Adams in good mood for someone who has just found out he has to pay water charges

The president of Sinn Féin was in a good mood for somebody who had only recently learned that he’ll have to pay for his water like everyone else. And maybe even on the double. That must have come as a bit of a shock.

On Monday Gerry Adams was under the impression that he wouldn't be caught for any charges.

Between then and yesterday somebody must have put him right because he told reporters that he intended to stump up the money to Irish Water. (This is in contrast to the party’s candidate in Dublin South West, who says he will not be paying and Aengus Ó Snodaigh of Dublin South Central, who “isn’t inclined to pay it” but he’ll have to discuss this with his missus).

Adams said how he would deal with his personal water bill after Sinn Féin launched their pre-budget submission in a hotel near Leinster House. They are immensely proud of it – “fully costed” – they say, although the Taoiseach predictably rubbished it during Leaders’ Questions.

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Enda’s galley slaves must have been very busy before he left for the Dáil chamber, because he had quite a nice little synopsis of what’s in the submission when he went in to face Gerry.

The Taoiseach read out what he reckoned were the scariest aspects of this alternative budget, majoring heavily on the proposals to raise taxes in a number of areas. “Ooooh!” went his backbenchers with each mention of a new charge or higher rate.

If Sinn Féin’s budget was implemented it would “close down the country”, quivered Enda. Needless to say “fantasy economics” made its usual cameo appearance, although it’s a tired line at this stage.

Sinn Féin's finance spokesman was not amused. "That's nonsense!" snapped Pearse Doherty. "Don't be letting yourself down."

But as his colleagues threw their eyes to the heavens, the fact that the party leader didn’t seem aware he’d have to pay for his water – after months of noise inside and outside the Dáil – was not reassuring.

Industrial wage

How a person living on just the average industrial wage and mere average industrial expenses could overlook such a wallop in the wallet is puzzling. So we listened back to this exchange between Gerry and Joe Finnegan on Shannonside Radio on Monday morning.

“Are you going to pay your water charges, Gerry?”

“Well, it doesn’t affect me in so far as, eh, I, in the North where my family home is, Sinn Féin stopped water charges…”

“So you won’t have to pay water charges here in the South?”

“No, not, not, not to my knowledge.”

In fairness, Adams may have a well at his holiday bolthole in Donegal's Gortahork, so he would be covered there, but where does that leave his Louth constituency abode in rural Ballymakellett, Ravensdale, on the lovely Cooley Peninsula?

If he’s paying up they both can’t have a well.

Before the 2011 general election Gerry had to go to court to declare that he now resides in Louth to have his name included on the election register. Even if he was only renting he would be liable for water charges. Very puzzling, forgetting such a big thing.

Still, 48 hours later, all was well. Now that his state of knowledge is changed, Adams will be paying for his water.

These are the sort of curious questions that enter your head while Enda is answering questions about Irish Water.

Leaking pipes

He gushes words across the floor like fire-fighting foam, smothering the discussion with a thick blanket of blather about leaking pipes and dirty water and Ballymore Eustace.

The Taoiseach is obsessed with this reservoir, where water levels became so low recently that supplies had to be restricted in certain areas of Dublin. He misses no opportunity to mention the place.

Enda doesn’t appreciate questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. So yesterday, yet again, the Taoiseach’s rambling version of an answer came prefaced with the usual “you actually have some neck to come in here and say what you’re saying now…”

Meanwhile, the Technical Group's Catherine Murphy was wondering how Irish Water has been criticised for being unable to communicate with the public when the company has spent so much money on PR. "This is because the problem is not the message, it's the substance."

On top of this, the Government had created a “superquango” and this “frightens the living daylights out of people. That is what they feel they are paying for.”

Enda began to explain what will happen when Bord Gáis and Uisce Éireann merge.

“In respect of the Irish Water entity, Deputy Murphy will be aware that this will become Ervia, which is an amalgamation of Irish Water and Bord Gáis, where a completely independent analysis of the competencies and the specialities required to run a major entity like this will apply. Those discussions will take place about the creation of Ervia very shortly.”

Micheál Martin looked up. “When was that announced?”

Enda referred to this rapidly approaching Ervia creature as "The Amalgamated Entity" which sounds more like an episode of Dr Who than a utility company.

But he still didn’t really explain what’s going to happen about those people with an inability to pay.

As opposed to those, like Adams, who just forget that they have to pay.