From top: Leo Varadkar;Tony Groves
A mathematician, an accountant and an public relations manager apply for the same job…
The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks “What do two plus two equal?” The mathematician replies “Four.” The interviewer asks “Four, exactly?” The mathematician looks at the interviewer incredulously and says “Yes, four, exactly.”
Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question “What do two plus two equal?” The accountant says “On average, four – give or take ten percent, but on average, four.”
Finally, the interviewer calls in the PR manager and poses the same question “What do two plus two equal?”
The PR manager gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says, “What do you want it to equal”?
When Leo Varadkar was Minister for Social Protection he said that there should not be refunds for those who paid water charges. He also added that those who did not pay should be pursued. Now, as Taoiseach, he wants us all to engage in collective memory loss as he rebrands himself into Santa Leo.
Santa Leo is promising Christmas bonuses to all the little good boys and girls. Refunds, that he said he wouldn’t do, are going to cost €170,000,000 and an estimated €10,000,000 to process it.
So that’s a €180,000,000 humiliation for Fine Gael that is to be spun as a Ho Ho Ho Christmas Holiday present of “three hundred odd euro back” per household.
Great news for those “two thirds of people” who obeyed the law and paid their Irish Water bills. Three hundred euro is not to be sniffed at.
Well played Leo, everyone will forget your previous guff about pursuing non-payers and you get to turn your democratic defeat into a political win. At least you would do, if you’re figures weren’t as unreliable as your proclamations. Just a cursory exploration of the facts exposes the flaws.
Firstly, Irish Water only took in €165,120,680 and not €170,000,000. Irish Water was responsible for 1,700,000 households, when applicable they billed 1,522,000 of these.
At their peak, Irish Water say 989,000 people were paying; that’s 58% of households and not the 66% claimed by government.
Even using this 989,000 figure is problematic; to refund this many households “three hundred odd euro” back would cost the exchequer €296,700,000.
There’s either a €126,700,000 hole in their sums, or they still aren’t telling the truth about how many people were paying and how much had been paid.
Taking the €300 refund amount to be true, then we can estimate that only 566,666 households paid up. That’s one third of the 1,700,000 households. A figure only slightly above the 30% figure claimed by that “lefty looney” Paul Murphy.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t really matter. After destroying the Labour Party and bringing Fine Gael to its knees Water Charges are dead. Not to mention the real crises of housing and hospital waiting lists; true emergencies that require immediate responses.
But that’s sort of the point.
A Taoiseach who quotes bogus stats on a dead issue like Water Charges is not credible when he quotes stats on new housing builds or hospital waiting lists.
A Taoiseach that has hired a separate office to manage his own Public Relations is a Taoiseach who needs more scrutiny than any to have ever held the office before.
Remember, this is a government that when they failed to meet their goal of patients not waiting over 24 hours in an A&E Department decided that, rather than redouble their efforts, they’d simply change the goal to say that patients over 75 would not be waiting over 24 hours.
This is the government that claimed there had been 15,000 new homes built in 2016, when the real figure was closer to 3,500. In Cork alone the government’s figure of 287 was a shameful 21.
This is why it Santa Leo and the €300 matters. A government that holds to data that is disproven cannot be expected to solve real crises. Flat earther economics is not going to build houses. PR soundbites won’t stop winter flu.
We know, looking around our dinner tables, that hospital waiting lists are rocketing towards 750,000. The people who get up early in the morning in homeless hubs know that 2 + 2 = 4. No amount of PR media spin is going to make it otherwise. Santa Claus is not real.
(BTW There’s a Inner City Helping Homeless, No Place to Sleep, Public Meeting on Wednesday the 16th of August, at 7:30. 72 Amien Street, Dublin 1.)
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld