In politics, no wind can be worse than an ill wind

Inside Politics: Combination of a cold snap and low wind brings risks

It’s an ill wind that blows no good, the saying goes. But what about no wind at all? During the summer, when reams of newsprint were expended on how the energy crisis could impact households, one key ingredient in any disaster was a period of very cold weather with low wind. That is exactly what Ireland is to face in the coming days, and as we report in our lead story this morning, it will put the electricity system under significant pressure for the rest of this week.

While the prospect of a meaningful impact on households or of loss of supply is remote, it is the first time this winter that it has happened. If things deteriorate beyond an “amber alert”, the issuing of which we’re told is a strong possibility this week, large energy users may see their access to the grid turned down. It’s far from a doomsday scenario, but it is an uncomfortable reminder of how this winter brings new exposures to known risks.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar yesterday said Ireland’s infrastructural disadvantages are clear when you look around Europe, and at a bare minimum, the prospect of restricted access to power for industry will send a chill around several sectors.

The cold snap also means that post-Christmas utility bills will be a nasty hangover to the festive season. If the situation deteriorates to the extent it impacts households properly, the political consequences will of course be rapid and serious.


Elsewhere, the Cabinet worked its way through a hefty agenda yesterday, as Ministers cleared their desks in advance of Christmas. One Cabinet Minister hoping he will not be asked to clear his desk in a more permanent sense is Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, whose name is most frequently linked with being dropped in a reshuffle.

However, his achievement in bringing a new consultant contract to Cabinet, alongside a plan to blitz waiting lists with the establishment of surgical hubs around the country, should strengthen his chances of survival.

He had a rough pandemic, but if his party leader judges these credible efforts at solving some of the major non-Covid millstones around the neck of the health system, it will significantly bolster his chances of survival.

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There’s a cold front of Ministers spreading across the capital this morning, starting with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys are announcing a “major investment” in community centres at Hartstown around 9.30am.

Roderic O’Gorman and Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy are launching a family resource centre in Finglas at 11am. Sadly for the Lord Mayor, that means she’ll miss the official opening of the alternative live crib in St Stephen’s Green, with Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan. We’re sure she’ll be devastated. Happily enough, they are both at an OPW gig to mark the opening of a free, festive market in Dublin Castle at 3pm.

The parliamentary day starts at 9am in the Dáil with oral questions for Stephen Donnelly, followed by Charlie McConalogue. Leaders’ questions is at midday, followed by government business, topical issues and a Labour Party Bill to establish a dedicated authority for Dublin Bay. The full schedule is here.

In the Seanad, it’s statements on COP27 at 9am before the committee and remaining stages of the planning and development and foreshore (amendment) bill. It adjourns for the week at 3pm.

The Public Accounts Committee meets at 9.30am with the Revenu Commissioners and Pemier Lotteries in the afternoon. Former Taoiseach John Bruton is in front of the Good Friday committee at 1.30pm. The full schedule is here.