Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Silly Ideas Amnesty Day

We all make mistakes but some of us are better at admitting them than others. Certain politicians, for instance, are quite incapable of holding up their hands in public. What goes for the most macho of men, goes doubly so for those in public life. Never show weakness. Never say you’re sorry. Never say: I was wrong.
This might explain why the ridiculous 30kph speed limit along the north and south quays of the city remains in place nearly nine months after it was introduced to a chorus of disapproval. Twelve-pound babies have been easier to deliver than this ill-conceived legislation.

The AA pointed out that it would create dangerous bottlenecks but the brass necks wouldn’t have it. There would be no U-turn because to make one would be to admit that the whole idea was a half-hearted and badly-thought out stab at making Dublin’s roads safer. Delineating the cycle lanes more clearly along the quays would have been a better start.

Only now is a proposed amendment to the limit being formulated. Dublin city councillors will decide in the autumn on whether to raise the limit outside the stretch between Capel Street and O’Connell Bridge. We wait with bated breath (as we sit in stalled traffic).

Sorry seems to be the hardest word. Look at the e-voting machines fiasco. If someone had laughed hard enough at Noel Dempsey when he started promoting them as the future in 2002, he might have stopped flouncing about like some class of Buck Rogers of the ballot box. If someone had told Martin Cullen to cop himself on when he expanded on Dempsey’s minor brainwave, we might not have spent over €50m on them.

Instead – because no-one was man or woman enough to say that this was a ninny-headed idea and that they should be sold off immediately – we are only now looking at offloading them. It has just emerged that the Government might, maybe, perhaps, tentatively have found a buyer for the wretched machines.

You wouldn’t wait eight years to return a too-small pair of shoes to the shop. Why spend €183,000 a year on storing these machines rather than admitting they were completely the wrong fit?

If our bull-headed leaders won’t admit their mistakes, maybe we need to give them a get-out clause. I hereby propose a Silly Ideas Amnesty. For one day only, let all parties, in and out of power, all local authorities and lobbying groups, take the opportunity to retract all the most ridiculous proposals and legislation they’ve made in, say, the past ten years.

The rest of us will agree to turn a blind eye, and never mention the dumb ideas again. I figure there are many proposals made in the heat of a Dail debate or on the promise of a vote or two that could be made to sleep with the fishies and the country would be better for it.

Perhaps Clare County Council could rethink the outrageous new charges that will likely scare motoring tourists from visiting the Cliffs of Moher. Would Energy Minister Eamon Ryan gladly retract his public service obligation levy (ie, jacking up electricity prices for householders) if only we couldn’t witness his embarrassment at being seen to do so?

Maybe the person who thought letting TDs continue to charge for some unvouched expenses might like to think again. Perhaps Mary Harney could go back and knock together the correct heads in the HSE – the ones in the boardrooms, rather than on the frontline – if we’d only look out the window a bit and whistle Dixie.

At the end of Silly Ideas Amnesty Day, we could recreate that special effect in Men in Black. The one where Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones wipe the memories of the humans who see aliens in their midst. We would be none the wiser – but wouldn’t such ignorance be bliss?

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