Updated at 4.50pm
TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY told furious opposition TDs several times this afternoon that income tax reductions will “far outweigh” outgoings on household water bills for taxpayers next year.
Water, once again, was the main focus of the chamber today in Leader’s Questions — with the Taoiseach coming under pressure first from Gerry Adams over the Government’s plans for the future of Irish Water, and from an incandescent Mick Wallace on everything from the policing of protests to the coalition’s lack of enthusiasm to call an instant general election.
“Everybody gains under the reductions in levels of income tax,” Kenny insisted, referring to the modest cuts announced as part of last month’s Budget.
He said the reductions would neutralise the impact of the revised pricing structure for water, set to be unveiled in the Dáil tomorrow.
And he reiterated the promise of further income tax cuts for hard-pressed families in 2016, and in following years — should people choose to support the Government at the next election.
Responding first to the Sinn Féin leader, Kenny insisted that the way Irish Water was set up meant it could “never be privatised”.
While later, responding to Wallace’s questions, he again took the opportunity to hit out at TD Paul Murphy for his part in Saturdays’ Jobstown protest targeting the Tánaiste.
“You, Deputy, would not like to be hemmed in by a baying mob for two and a half hours,” Kenny said, as the former MEP shouted back across the chamber (his comments weren’t picked up by the mics).
You should have the courage and the gumption to apologise unreservedly to the Tánaiste for what happened out in Jobstown.
Murphy, along with fellow Socialists Ruth Coppinger and Joe Higgins, have come in for steady criticism from Government ministers and TDs in the wake of Saturday’s action, for insistence that it was justified and largely peaceful.
But the Tánaiste firmly shook her head today as Wallace once again said that what had happened was “overwhelmingly peaceful”.
Wallace also asked what Kenny had made of the footage — widely publicised since the weekend — of the young woman “thrown into a lamppost” by gardaí.
In his answer, the Taoiseach once again hit out at the actions of some of the protesters, saying that he had seen them “attempting to kick gardaí, knock them down and steal their equipment”.
He said the scenes that greeted his arrival at an event in a Sligo last night had not been “in keeping with what the leaders of the protests said”.
Demonstrators, according to Kenny, had said they would not attempt to block his car. Several of the some 400 present at the action did, however — and the Taoiseach noted last night it had been a good thing no-one was injured.
Away from the protests — it looks like the taxation theme will be one of the main talking points offered up by minsters as they enter a new phase of ‘damage control’ with their announcement of the much-heralded last-chance-to-get-it-right water charges package.
“The Government have listened to the people,” the Taoiseach said.
And despite Wallace’s protestations that the coalition had “lost the plot” and should therefore call an immediate General Election, Kenny had a simple response for the Wexford deputy.
The answer to your question is ‘no’…
We can expect more of the same tomorrow.
And the next day.
The Government has cleared two afternoon’s worth of work for a debate on ‘Water 2.0′.