Walkout as water metering Bill passes
Opposition TDs protest at curtailing of debate on controversial Bill
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin with members of his party, Sinn Féin TDs and Independent TDs. after the Oposition parties withdrew from the Dáil yesterday in protest over the Government’s handling of the water service Bill. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
The legislation paving the way for water metering passed all stages in the Dáil amid controversy and a walkout by the Opposition.
Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim Luke Ming Flanagan walked across the chamber and handed a glass of dirty water to Minister of State for the Environment Fergus O’Dowd, who was presiding over the debate on the Water Services (No 2) Bill, having complained about the quality of the water in his constituency.
The Opposition walked out when the Government insisted on guillotining the legislation, although Wicklow TD Billy Timmins and Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim Denis Naughten remained in the chamber to debate the Bill.
They were later joined by Tipperary South Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Mr Naughten made a number of references to the poor quality of the water in Roscommon.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, who took the order of business, defended the guillotining of the Bill. “This legislation has to be enacted in this calendar year to implement the legislative measures in 2014,’’ he added.
Mr Flanagan described the water in the Castlerea rural scheme as “glorified piss’’, which people would be charged for under the legislation. “The reality is we will not pay for it,’’ he added.
He said he would present a glass of the water to the Minister of State and challenge him to drink it and, if he refused to do so, it was for a reason. “It has got cryptosporidium in it,’’ said Mr Flanagan.
“Children outside my town cannot even brush their teeth with it and the Minister of State will charge them for it.’’
As Mr Flanagan crossed the chamber to place the glass of water on the Government benches in front of Mr O’Dowd, he was reminded by Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy, who was in the chair, that he was not allowed do so. Mr Flanagan then left the chamber.
‘An act of vandalism’’
When Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett later took the chair for Opposition Leaders’ Questions, he described Mr Flanagan’s actions as “an act of vandalism’’, adding that he had never seen such behaviour.
“A member walking down and handing a glass of water to a Minister . . . This is just outrageous and unacceptable,’’ he added.
Mr Barrett said he would convene an emergency meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) to consider the matter. The CPP later sent Mr Flanagan a letter expressing its “strong disapproval’’ of his actions.
It also passed a resolution which said: “The CPP condemns without reservation the behaviour of Deputy Luke Ming Flanagan in Dáil Éireann on December 19th, 2013. It regards his actions as totally unacceptable and damaging to the reputation and standing of the House.’’
The CPP also warned Mr Flanagan that “any further behaviour of this kind will be severely dealt with’’.
It is understood that Mr Flanagan could not be suspended from the Dáil chamber because Mr Barrett was not in the chair at the time of the incident. It is also understood that the Dáil rules that allow for someone to be suspended cannot be applied retrospectively.