Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cryptosporidium, and Its Role in Irish Democracy

Reader, meet cryptosporidium. Looks trippy, doesn’t he? You’d get half a week’s dole off a hippy in some murky alley off O’Connell Street if you told him he’d be seeing visions like this vista to our left in half an hour.

Of course, that’s not what the people of Galway are seeing after a feed of cryptosporidium in recent weeks. The chief thing they’re seeing, God love them, are the insides of their underpants as they spend another indeterminable hour on the can after drinking their own tap water.

Somehow it’s not a national scandal that Galway, the fourth biggest city in the country, the citadel of our tourist industry, can’t provide its citizens with clean water to drink. Heads are manifestly not rolling over this, just as they’re not rolling over this nonsensical nurses’ dispute that could be solved in a day if people were really trying, just as they didn’t roll over the new maternity hospital in Cork, just as they didn’t roll in the electronic voting fiasco, just as they never roll ever for all the innumerable snafus in the history of the State.

Morning Ireland provided an insight into just why heads don’t roll around here in an interview this morning with Roderick O’Sullivan. Roderick O’Sullivan is an environmental scientist who carried out a survey on Lough Corrib on behalf of the Lough Corrib Angling Federation. The survey was the largest ever carried out on an Irish lake, testing for thirteen different physical and chemical elements at 31 different sites on the lake.

The survey found the lake was filthy, in a word. Sewage from the surrounding towns was combining with gallons of slurry sluicing off the fields to sweep into the lake, and that’s now what’s coming out of the faucets in Renmore and Salthill and Shantalla.

So how did Galway County Council react to this survey, that same County Council who are in charge of – that is to say, with whom the fabled buck stops – local water schemes? They “derided and ignored” the report, according to O’Sullivan, which sounds just like them. The only thing an Irish elected official does better than go on junkets is stick his or her head in the sand when the cryptosporidium hits the fan.

Roderick O’Sullivan must be one of those stubborn bucks though, because he took his survey to Europe and made a complaint there. After nine long years – because they’re not really the Action Jackson types beyond in Brussels, you know – why else would our bucks like it so much? – the Eurocrats agreed with Dr O’Sullivan and said yes, Lough Corrib is swimming in shit.

Back to Ireland and a meeting with Dick Roche, Minister for the environment. Dick Roche was having none of it. Ireland is a democracy, Roche lectured Dr O’Sullivan. If the people aren’t saying the lake is polluted, than the lake is not polluted.

Let’s savour that one once more. Ireland is a democracy. If the people aren’t saying that the lake is polluted, then it is not polluted.

An Spailpín Fánach has a question for Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche. If, God forbid, something were to go wrong with the Minister in a cardiovascular sense, whom would he prefer to perform the quadruple bypass – Dr Maurice Nelligan, or some phenomenally popularly-mandated vote sweeping-up machine like Willie O’Dea or Michael Ring? One gets the feeling that once the misfortunate minister lay on the table to look up at Ringy swinging the scalpel about the exposed ministerial chest cavity like a man that had just watched all three Lord of the Rings DVDs back to back and now thought he was wielding the Battle Axe of Gimli, the Minister would have cause to think again.

Dear God in Heaven. We deserve all we get if this is the best we can elect. And for God’s sake, if you’re in Galway, don’t drink the water. We know exactly what’s in it.

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