Irish Water could be unreformable ‘Goliath’ like HSE, Fine Gael backbencher warns

Economic Management Council refused to listen to TDs, says Murphy

Irish Water could become an unreformable “Goliath” superstructure similar to the HSE unless it is set up as a new stand-alone entity, a Government backbencher has warned.

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy said the fault for the Irish Water fiasco “lies with the Government” and he sharply criticised the administration’s view that it was better than Fianna Fáil because it had at least announced the new charges in the Dáil.

“The previous government is a low benchmark by which to measure our standards. We can and should do better,” he said.

The Dublin South East TD renewed his criticisms of the Economic Management Council, comprising the four most senior members of Cabinet. He said it had refused to listen to TDs for more than eight months and had “worn out the patience of people outside the House”.


If the Government was listening, the council would not have driven Irish Water’s relaunch and the Minister for the Environment would not have left the Dáil chamber after his speech to give a press conference. “The Oireachtas must be treated much more seriously than is currently the case.”

He believed the Government should consider establishing a new stand-alone utility, “taking whatever investment can be salvaged and starting again”.

He warned: "The danger is that 10 years from now we will have to deal with another quango or superstructure similar to the Health Service Executive and it will be too difficult to reform because it will have become a Goliath. "

He also questioned the appropriateness of making “such significant decisions and major changes within one month of passing the budget. Is this the proper way to manage the national finances? Where is the new budgetary process we were promised?”

Another Fine Gael backbencher, Brendan Griffin, was also critical of the Government's approach to the controversy, describing its handling as an "unmitigated disaster". He was, however, grateful that the "lack of certainty on pricing [was] finally being put to bed".

In a dig at former environment minister Phil Hogan, the Kerry South TD said he had spoken about the issue in January "but unfortunately at the time we had a minister who would really only give a smartarse answer on anything that was raised".

Mr Griffin said there was a fundamental need for reform in how business was done in the House.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times