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Fergus O'Dowd just got Paxman-ed on Morning Ireland

The former junior minister launched a fierce attack on the Government in a newspaper this morning, saying Irish Water had become an “unmitigated disaster”.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated at 9.31am

FORMER FINE GAEL Minister Fergus O’Dowd had a torrid time on Morning Ireland this morning, as he appeared for an interview to talk about his blistering attack on the Government in today’s Irish Independent. 

The Louth TD was effectively sacked as junior minister in the Department of the Environment in the summer reshuffle. He writes in today’s paper that the set-up of the semi-state has been an “unmitigated disaster”.

O’Dowd, who developed the legislation to set up the body, contends that there has been “major communications failure” at Irish Water in how it deals with customers.

Host Cathal Mac Coille took O’Dowd to task on several fronts on the issues he raised in the article, in particular his contention that “a lot of unemployed people tell me they cannot pay” and his assertion that the Government should do more to improve support services for hard-pressed householders.

Who said ‘no’?

The Fine Gael TD said he had raised the concerns several times while the semi-state was being set up, but in the course of the interview refused to point the finger at either Phil Hogan, his former line minister, or Taoiseach Enda Kenny, saying he wouldn’t pinpoint who rejected his concerns as he didn’t want to personalise the issue.

“Was this problem discussed by anyone in Government?” O’Dowd was asked.

“Well it was discussed by me all the time. At every single meeting I went to,” the TD replied, later saying he raised the issue with “the Department, with Irish Water, everywhere I spoke, everywhere I went”. 

Mac Coille asked several times who had said ‘no’ to his ideas. When Hogan’s name was raised, O’Dowd replied:

“Phil Hogan in fairness to him did the best he could,” before adding that he didn’t want to personalise his criticism.

“The point was that I made my point of view known to everybody,” O’Dowd said.

As Mac Coille repeated his line of questioning, the Louth deputy conceded that his concerns were never acted upon because ”I wasn’t the Minister for a start… I wasn’t in Government”.

I proposed lots of things and Phil Hogan ran with many of them and the Government had a decision to make.

O’Dowd said he made his case about water charge exemptions with “everybody in the political system”….

I have made it directly to the Taoiseach. I made it directly to Phil Hogan. I made it directly to everybody that listens to me.

“I made it in public. I make it now again.”

Enda’s reaction

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been reacting to O’Dowd’s criticism of Irish Water.

Speaking to reporters this morning, Kenny contended that O’Dowd had been “voicing concern about connecting with people in really explaining the reasons for Irish Water and the options that are open”.

He said that he hadn’t read the TD’s op-ed but that as “the minister who guided this through” O’Dowd had been…

“…just making the point that there’s a need for constant engagement with the community and the people so that everybody understands the need for setting up Irish Water and the need for making a contribution to a commodity that’s very previous and that’s costing €1.2 billion at the moment per year”.

State of the Nation: Sacked minister’s blistering parting shot over “failed” Irish Water

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