Fine Gael TD warns Enda Kenny not to count on his vote

FG, Labour meetings discuss Irish Water

John Tierney, MD of Irish Water: held a briefing with TDs and Senators at Leinster House yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

John Tierney, MD of Irish Water: held a briefing with TDs and Senators at Leinster House yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A Fine Gael TD last night warned Taoiseach Enda Kenny he may not be able to support the party in the Dáil unless the Government began listening to its backbenchers.

Kerry deputy Brendan Griffin gave what was described as an “emotive” speech at the weekly meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night, which again heard concerns about Irish Water.

A number of TDs and Senators said the Coalition is being made to look incompetent by the handling of the issue, and there were calls for bonuses in Irish Water to be scrapped.

Mr Kenny promised the entire Cabinet, and not just the Economic Management Council, would make a decision on the revised water charges package, to be unveiled by Cabinet in the coming weeks.

Taken seriously

Galway EastPaul Connaughton

Mr Connaughton and Mr Griffin were said to be the most forceful speakers, with the latter warning that if things didn’t change, the Government could no longer rely on his vote.

He said opportunities for reform had been missed, and that three hours of debate on Irish Water was not good enough.

The majority of his speech focused on how the party carried out its business, with Mr Griffin saying “it feels as if no one is listening” to TDs. He said he had been knocking on doors for Fine Gael since he was 15 and that things had to improve.

Mr Kenny told his TDs that the issue would probably not be resolved until the week after next because of the complex legal issues involved. But he promised there would be absolute clarity at that stage.

Mr Kenny spoke at the end of the two-hour meeting having listened to strong criticism from some of his TDs, in particular Kildare deputy Anthony Lawlor, and more widespread concern that the Government had suffered serious political damage as a result of its handling of the issue.

Irish Water executives, including managing director John Tierney, held a briefing with TDs and Senators from all parties, as well as Independents, in Leinster House yesterday. The company had sent a letter in advance apologising to members of the Dáil and Seanad about how it had handled itself in recent months.

Those at that meeting said Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins asked several detailed questions of Mr Tierney, but said it was relatively quiet otherwise.

Labour discussion

Alan Kelly

Laois-Offaly TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said the public should be informed that it was Sinn Féin TDs who insisted, during the committee stage of the Irish Water Bill, that consumers should give their PPS numbers to Irish Water.

Earlier yesterday, Labour Senators voted with the Opposition on a motion calling for a referendum to enshrine the public ownership of Irish Water in the Constitution. Government sources have stressed this is unlikely, and Ms Burton told the party meeting that while such a move may have merit, it could have unforeseen consequences.

Earlier yesterday, Ms Burton said she and Mr Kenny were “on the same page” following criticism of her claim that the Irish Water bill for a family of two adults and two adult children would come in under €200. Other Government sources said the figure may be closer to €300, but it is unclear whether this is before the €100 welfare and tax systems are deducted. Ms Burton said her figures were inclusive of the €100.