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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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Barry Cowen to Phil Hogan: ‘You misled Dáil’. Hogan: ‘No, you did’.

Cowen has claimed that Hogan “either deliberately lied” or “accidentally gave a gross underestimation” about Irish water costs. The Minister says Cowen was “selective in his quotes”.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER PHIL Hogan has accused Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen of misleading the Oireachtas after Cowen had earlier accused the Minister of doing the same thing.

Hogan has said this evening that Cowen was “selective in his quotes” to the Dáil when alleging that the minister misled deputies over the set up costs at Irish Water.

Earlier this evening Cowen provided a transcript  to the Dáil of a debate from November 2012 which he claimed demonstrated that the minister may have deliberately lied about the true cost of setting up the new utility company.

Cowen says that the debate took place after the Economic Management Council had approved the €180 million set up costs at Irish Water and the minister’s estimate of €10 million given to the Dáil was therefore knowingly incorrect.

“Either Minister Hogan deliberately lied about how much taxpayers’ money was being spent on setting up Irish Water, or he accidentally gave a gross underestimation to the Oireachtas Environment Committee in November 2012,” said Cowen.

“Either way, we now know as a result of yesterday’s PAC meeting that when Minister Hogan publicly stated that the cost would be €10 million, he knew that €180 million had already been committed three months previously,” he added.

‘It is Deputy Cowen who is deliberately misleading’

The department has been quick to issue a response, however, saying that the Minister’s speech to the Dáil clearly outlined that he was responding to costs estimates at Irish Water in 2013 alone.

“It was an extensive debate on the various  areas of expenditure within the Department’s vote and there was a short reference to Irish Water,” the Minister’s office said this evening.

The Minister was speaking to proposed expenditure on Irish Water in 2013. He was not speaking on the substantive issue of the overall establishment costs in respect of Irish Water. Later on in the debate the Minister further clarified that this expenditure was for interim measures, €5m for meters surveying and €2.75 for administrative costs.

The quote from the November 2012 debate the minster seems to be referring to is the following line:

A provision of €10 million is provided to set up the structure for the establishment of Irish Water in 2013. Legislation to set up Irish Water on an interim basis will be brought forward pending the full implementation in 2013.

The exchange is not the first time the two men have clashed over costs at Irish water with Cowen complaining during Tuesday hearing at the Oireachtas Environment Committee that the department has not been forthcoming with requests for information.

It was revealed at the Public Accounts Committee last night that despite the Department of the Environment knowing in March 2013 about the consultancy procurement, they were not aware how much the final spend would be.

Read: Government knew of outside consultants procured at Irish Water almost a year ago >

Read: “We’re not getting transparency at Irish Water,” Barry Cowen and Phil Hogan face off on Prime Time >

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Rónán Duffy

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