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School's Out

Insults fly as Joan and Mary Lou clash for one last time before the summer hols

Places, people.

IT WAS THE last Leader’s Questions before the summer break.

Joan Burton and Mary Lou McDonald were in their usual places.

And once again, the topic was water charges.

The debate took a familiar course, but (and perhaps the fact that it was the last day of the Dáil had something to do with it) it seemed their hearts weren’t really in it.

Aren’t you a postmaster? 

On the undercard this afternoon – a clash between Burton and Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy.

Troy – from Longford-Westmeath – had a question on the post office system.

He wanted to know if the government would commit to preserving the current network - and whether the Social Protection minister would address postmasters’ problems with a welfare form issued by her department.

The problem with the form arose last month – after it emerged it recommended people receive their payments by direct debit to a bank account, instead of via the post office.

Family business

Responding, Burton made several references to the fact that Troy had a family interest in the subject – and managed to get a few jibes in at a certain former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach as she spoke.

As he got back on his feet, the FF TD said he had never shied away from the fact that he was a postmaster.

There was no sense in making this personal, he insisted.

One last round

As the main event began McDonald covered some well-worn ground, telling Burton her “unfair water tax” had failed, that it was time to abolish Irish Water, that she was refusing to listen to people on the issue and that “figures for this Irish Water quango don’t add up”.

Burton – as expected – simply rehashed the familiar talking points of the last few days (months?)…

A clean, efficient water system was essential if we wanted to bring in tourism and foreign direct investment, she said.

And besides, we need it for “Ourselves, our children and grandchildren”.

The upcoming budget would include tax relief for hardworking families, she reminded the deputy.

Water would be dealt with separately, under a separate payment system.

Mouthpiece

Back on her feet, McDonald had her responses ready.

“I am struck by the extent which you have morphed into a Fine Gael mouthpiece,” she told the Labour leader.

Furthermore, she was in “cloud cuckooland” if she thought the figures added up.

With another stump speech and a few broadsides at the Shinners, Burton rounded out the session.

McDonald’s party wanted to throw the thousands of people employed in supplying water out of a job, she insisted.

And the Sinn Féín deputy leader herself was more interested in media attention than in solutions…

Read: The return of Bertie Ahern

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