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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 21 June, 2018
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There was an almighty row over Phil Hogan and Irish Water in the Seanad today

The upper house was suspended three times this afternoon. Here’s what happened….

FIANNA FÁIL SENATOR Marc MacSharry has been criticised by government and opposition senators after the Seanad was suspended three times today, restricting debate on the Irish Water controversy.

The three suspensions followed MacSharry, using parliamentary privilege, describing former Environment Minister Phil Hogan as having “lied to the people” and then refusing to withdraw the remark.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 15.14.22 1 Marc MacSharry Source: Oireachtas TV

The description of Hogan led to uproar on the government benches with Fine Gael senator Cáit Keane leading criticism of MacSharry who refused to withdraw the remark.

“It is appropriate to use the word lie when that is the truth. I am merely using parliamentary privilege. I am not withdrawing it,” MacSharry said.

The house was then suspended for the first of what would be three times in the space of just over an hour.

MacSharry claimed that Keane’s interruptions had restricted his speaking time in the debate so when the chamber returned he proceeded to interrupt her continuously leading to a second suspension for around 30 minutes.

MacSharry’s behaviour saw him heavily criticised by fellow senators on all sides of the house, though not on the Fianna Fáil benches:

Keane was able to finish her contribution upon the chamber’s return at 1.45pm with independent Marie Louise O’Donnell and Labour’s Denis Landy also speaking.

This led to complaints from independent senator David Norris who claimed that only government senators were being given speaking time.

He promptly left the house in protest before discussion resumed.

However such was the delay by the time Landy finished his contribution, the Cathaoirleach said that speaking time had finished and it was time for Environment Minister Alan Kelly to reply.

This led to uproar on the opposition benches with Fianna Fáil’s Brian Ó Domhnaill roaring across the Seanad that it was “a bloody disgrace by Fine Gael and Labour – a bloody disgrace”.

The row resulted in a third suspension before the Seanad returned at 2.15pm for Kelly to give his final reply on matters related to Irish Water.

After Kelly concluded, the Seanad was suspended for another four minutes before senators moved on to debate the Criminal Justice Amendment Bill.

Burton: €200 water bill for four adult family is my personal hope… and Enda is on the same page

Read: Irish Water is asking councils for information on their tenants

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Hugh O'Connell

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