Healy-Rae criticises ‘swagger and arrogance’ of last government

‘He told me where to go’: Kerry TD sharply criticises former minister Phil Hogan

Michael Healy-Rae TD speaking in Dublin in 2012. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill /The Irish Times

Michael Healy-Rae TD speaking in Dublin in 2012. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill /The Irish Times

 

The “swagger and arrogance” of the last government is absent in the current administration, Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has told the Dáil during an ongoing debate on water.

The Kerry TD said the way the last government dealt with water charges was “beyond belief” and the arrogance of that administration was why the Water Services Bill was being discussed and €179 million had to be repaid.

The legislation provides for the refunds to those who paid water charges and for charges to be levied against households who use excessive amounts of water.

Mr Healy-Rae said that he was “not one to apportion blame” but he sharply criticised the “arrogance” of former minister for the environment Phil Hogan, who he said effectively “told (him) where to go” during a local government debate.

Mr Healy-Rae said he had been vehemently against the abolition of town councils and was speaking about Fine Gael councillors who were particularly upset at the abolition.

Mr Healy-Rae said the former minister said he “could go back to those people - I was speaking about his people - and tell them he was quaking in his boots. That was the same as telling me where to go.”

He said “we are at this juncture because of that type of arrogance”.

He said the input of Fianna Fáil means the Government does not have a massive overall majority, like the administration did “which was the worst thing that ever happened”.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry described the excessive use charge as a “Trojan horse to facilitate the return of water charges in future.”

He said there will be “water charges by another name” in less than two years.

“What Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do not say is that the excessive use charge will saddle tens of thousands of ordinary four-person households with water charges in less than two years’ time,” he said.

Excessive usage will be set at 1.7 times the average use, but Mr Barry said the legislation describes the average household size as 2.75 persons and this would mean that households of four people which use more than 1.2 times the average use will be charged, because it would be calculated at 2.75 persons multiplied by 1.7 times the average usage.

Mr Barry warned Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that if they “seriously attempt to go down that road and levy water charges by the backdoor on increasing sections of the people, they will face a movement at least the same size as, if not greater than” the movement that forced them into the major concessions under debate in the Dáil.

Independent TD Sean Canney said the State cannot forget about the “real experts” - the people who generated the group water schemes to provide water to houses which previously had no water.

The former minister of state said: “I did not have piped water in my own house up until about 10 years ago, when the group water scheme provided it for me. Up until then I had to pay for it: I had to sink a tank in the ground and pay the costs myself.”

He said they could not be forgotten about. “We have to have equality of service and equality in the way we pay for these services,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis expressed concern that “complex legislation is being rushed through the Dáil without proper scrutiny.”

He said there were no references in the legislation to some of the key recommendations made in the committee’s report, including conservation measures,

Mr Ellis suggested “the legislation has been framed to allow a future Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael Government to increase charges.”