Irish Water

"Families are getting screwed by this particular regime"

Whether it’s outside your office window or inside the Dáil chamber, it appears there’s no escaping the issue of water today

IT’S THE ISSUE that just won’t go away for Enda Kenny’s Government.

We’re less than a week to go to the Budget — but next Tuesday’s likely announcements were given only the briefest of passing mentions in Leader’s Questions today.

Michéal Martin continued to exploit the opportunity presented by sacked junior minister Fergus O’Dowd’s attack on Irish Water yesterday to launch a fresh assault on the Taoiseach over the lack of protections from water charges for the less well off.

It’s the second day in a row the former minister’s claims have been the focus for the Leader’s Questions.

O’Dowd helped set up the controversial semi-state, but in an op-ed for the Irish Independent yesterday said the company had turned out to be an “unmitigated disaster”.

“Teething problems,” was how Kenny described the litany of controversies that have beset the utility yesterday.

He wasn’t going much further today, either…

While conceding that there hadn’t been enough ”clarity of explanation in explaining to people what this was about” during the set-up of Irish Water, he proceeded to blame successive Fianna Fáil-led governments for failing to address the issue.

‘Out of touch’ 

Beginning the session, the Fianna Fáil leader again raised O’Dowd’s comments that more should have been done to protect those unable to pay their charges.

There were no exemptions for the unemployed or for lower-paid workers in the current plan, Martin reminded the chamber.

Families with adult children in particular are “getting screwed by this particular regime” the Cork TD claimed, as he read to the Taoiseach from the energy regulator’s list of assessed charge estimates…

Across the aisle

Using what’s by now his standard phrase to respond to Martin’s questions, Kenny told the Fianna Fáil leader he had “some neck” to make his claims.

He accused Martin of hypocrisy, claiming a Fianna Fáil document from 2010 had budgeted for average household water costs of €400 per year.

Water was an issue “that simply must be dealt with” Kenny said.

It has never been dealt with, because you for the main part, over the past 25 years in Government did not deal with it.

He referred to allowances that already exist for households with children, and for those with medical needs, before noting…

…in huge areas of the country people have been paying for water for 50 years.

“It’s not nice to have a charge,” the Taoiseach continued.

However, 40 per cent of our water is ”leaking away every day” he observed, before telling Martin:

If your oil tank is filled down in Cork and you come back on Wednesday and 40 per cent of it is gone and it happens the week after and the week after — if you could afford to pay for it, what would you say? … Fix it!

Martin, in return, accused the Taoiseach of making up his answers as he went along, and asked him to directly address his questions.

After another attack on what he said was Fianna Fáil neglect of the water system, the Taoiseach eventually responded:

Of course it’s not easy on any category, particularly on the unemployed and particularly on families. Yes of course.

“But everybody has got to make a contribution.”


Later in the session, there were theatrical gasps from the Fine Gael backbenches as Kenny read out some of the proposals contained in Sinn Féin’s alternative budget plan.

Some of the measures, if implemented, “would drive every employer and every investor out of the country” the Taoiseach told party leader Gerry Adams.

A far-from-amused Adams contended that his proposals were being misrepresented entirely “and quite maliciously”.

Note: What’s in Sinn Féin’s Budget plan? Here you go… 

And while we’re on the subject of water: Heavy rain and flooding forecast for the south – but it’s going to rain almost everywhere

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