Oireachtas members ask President not to sign water Bill

Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames asks Michael D Higgins to refer Bill to Council of State

Galway’s Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, a member of the Reform Alliance, has written to Mr Higgins asking that he refer the Bill giving effect to water charges to the Council of State, the advisory group to the President. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Galway’s Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, a member of the Reform Alliance, has written to Mr Higgins asking that he refer the Bill giving effect to water charges to the Council of State, the advisory group to the President. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Another group of Oireachtas members has written to President Michael D Higgins asking that he decline to sign the Water Services Bill into law and instead refer it to the Council of State.

Galway’s Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, a member of the Reform Alliance, has written to Mr Higgins asking that he refer the Bill giving effect to water charges to the Council of State, the advisory group to the President.

Ms Healy-Eames’s move follows Sinn Féin, along with some Independent TDs and Senators, also writing to Mr Higgins asking him not to sign the Bill into law and instead invoking his powers under Article 26 of the Constitution.

Article 26 provides that the President may, after consultation with the Council of State, refer Bills to the Supreme Court for a decision on whether they comply with the Constitution.

The Sinn Féin letter had almost 40 signatories, while Ms Healy-Eames’s letter is signed by 12 Senators.

Letter crossover

There is some crossover between the two letters, such as Senator Gerard Craughwell, who has signed both.

Ms Healy Eames wants the President to refer it to the Council of State because “the plebiscite measure in the Bill is weak and leaves the door open for the future privatisation of water”, because Irish Water does not fall under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General and because “water charges are a regressive tax”.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet held an incorporeal meeting earlier this week to give Mr Higgins permission to leave the country.

It is understood he is travelling to Spain in the coming days on a private holiday.