Demonisation of former Irish Water boss ‘unacceptable’, says anti-water charges TD

Catherine Connolly said instead of ‘heads on a platter’ Government should have taken stock

Independent TD Catherine Connolly has condemned the "demonisation" of the former chief executive of Irish Water John Tierney.

Ms Connolly opposes domestic water charges and believes water charges should be paid for through general taxation.

But she told the Dáil she was “not in the area of demonising Irish Water. I think the demonisation of the CEO of Irish Water was and is unacceptable”.

The Galway West TD said she had had her rows with Mr Tierney, but when what was happening in Irish Water was exposed, “there were heads on a platter rather than the Government taking stock and saying ‘really we should look at this, this is not working’”.


She added: “It was totally unacceptable to demonise Irish Water and their staff when they were set up to do and carry out a service.”

Ms Connolly was speaking during debate on the Water Services (Amendment) Bill which will suspend billing on charges for the next nine months, from July 1st to allow a commission be established to come up with recommendations for a long-term sustainable funding model for water services.

Ms Connolly said she welcomed the suspension of water charges but said it was the wrong way to go about the issue. “We should be stopping it completely and should work tougher to have a service that brings us all on board from our taxation.”

Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger referred to the European Commission's view that domestic water charges should be levied.

She said that if the Commission ignored the 70 per cent of TDs in the Dáil who “vowed opposition” to the water charges, “that says it all about how the EU is behaving”.

She said the legislation keeps Irish Water and maintains it intact. Ms Coppinger hit out at Fianna Fáil and said this was their first broken promise because they had “put posters up and down the country pledging to abolish Irish Water but are voting to maintain it”.

The legislation was also “silent on Irish Water metering” and she said it was ridiculous that metering was taking place in housing estates when the Dáil was debating suspending water charges.

The Dublin West TD suggested the Government could pay for water by supporting the European Commission in pursuing the Apple Corporation for €17 billion to €19 billion in backtaxes.

She also suggested a millionaires’ tax on income over €1 million. The EU Commission’s suggestion of a financial transaction tax would bring in €500 million at a minimum and an increase in employers’ PRSI to the EU average could be imposed.

Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy said the European Commission should stop meddling in the water charges issue. Referring to the Commission’s view that domestic charges should be imposed, Mr Troy said it should stop trying to dictate domestic matters.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said the Commission was being used by the Government to push through and maintain Irish Water. The Government was providing a cover-up for a corporate agenda, for multinationals and “for regressive charges which put the onus back on the ordinary people”.

But Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney said the Commission's view was not a surprise to Fine Gael and he did not think others should be surprised by it.

He confirmed he would announce the commission members this week with expertise and said there would be input from group water schemes.

Mr Coveney said “the one consistency in this debate is that everybody accepts that we have to pay for water” and the issue was whether this should be through general taxation or through household contribution or some other metric.

He said the commission would not be an easy process because many had committed to a position. There was a risk for everybody in the process and “probably more for the Government parties”.

Mr Coveney re-iterated his view that they wanted to try to take the politics out of water and try to have “an informed debate so that we can make a decision that can last”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times