By Eugene McGloin
SIMON COVENEY could usefully sneak a squint at the golden rules for diplomacy.
The diplomat who says 'Yes' means 'Maybe' and the diplomat who says 'Maybe' really means 'No.'
Those ageless rules terminate with another truism: The diplomat who says 'No' is, eh, never to be called a diplomat.
Enter stage right Simon Coveney telling the world and sundry, for now, that 'no' there will be no refunds to those who already paid their water charges.
Those people who forked out could be officially classed as FG -- no, not FG meaning 'Fine Gael' but FG meaning 'Fecken Gobshites.'
The official itinerary of Minister Coveney, drafted some time ago, put him in Cranmore, Sligo on Thursday December 1st 2016.
Forget his official business, but the time and the place yesterday offered him the perfect contrasting insight into his bigger crux, Irish Water.
Two years ago contractors for that company withdrew from Cranmore with the fanfare of a foreign army having been told take a hike, permanently.
'Sligo boys hurrah' was one interpretation of the Facebook scenario as politicians queued to take the kudos. We all cheered, well most of us did.
But elsewhere, in the old east ward of Sligo some older people felt a (near) compulsion to pay the hated water charges.
Older Irish citizens were the softest touch -- and got some of the hardest knocks -- from Irish governments during the years of austerity.
But some of those same people would have paid tithes to Putin himself or to the Tsar of Russia if an Irish government had decreed so during recent austerity.
That citizen sense of can-do commitment is in their DNA from our previous ages of austerity.
Austerity such as after the Civil War and -- a generation later -- after the Second World War.
It wasn't just older people who were motivated by those eras; offspring too.
The narrative of the February 2016 general election (crucially) missed to capture any sense of that particular patriotism.
So, Simon Coveney may now need to be saved from his post-austerity sense of patriotism.
He will, too, probably be rescued by a group of his own party backbenchers.
Those FG backbenchers support refunds to the paid-up water public and they want the issue addressed within their party.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan wants the monkey -- more correctly ''the dead cat'' -- off his back, too.
Handling of this issue could be decisive for Simon Coveney's leadership ambitions, whenever. He is not the only potential casualty.
Meanwhile, let us recall back forty years ago when George Colley made a colourful throwaway remark.
He chided ''well heeled women;'' while looking to put some wrongs to right in Irish society they were getting his goat up as Finance Minister.
In turn, 'Gorgeous George' got their goat up and his gaffe gazumped him, unforgotten and unforgiven.
Does Simon Coveney envisage a Dev-style look into his heart, decide to tap these retired people and older people and pocket their cash, huh.
Remember the golden rule in the diplomat's docket book: The diplomat who says 'No' is no diplomat.
Besides, Minister Coveney would set an agenda to earn him well heeled wellie at every corner of the country in the next general election.