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'Things change': Labour TD defends her party's U-turn on water charges

Joanna Tuffy has criticised people who recently shared a statement she made against water charges in 2009.

A LABOUR TD has criticised people for sharing a statement she made in 2009 in which she described domestic water charges as “a retrograde step”.

Joanna Tuffy has said that it’s “totally bogus to take a statement from 2009″ and share it now, noting: “Things change.”

The Dublin Mid-West TD said that the people who have been sharing the statement online are “the usual suspects” though later clarified she was not referring to journalists. She said a large number of tweets came from Sinn Féin members.

“That thing of retweeting it, that’s all people who are against water charges. Is that the best that people can do?”

This was one of the most retweeted tweets referring to Tuffy’s statement in 2009. 

Tuffy told that she doesn’t think most people would be angry about the statement as it was made five years ago and a lot has changed in Ireland since then.

On 8 December 2009, Tuffy said that the then Environment Minister John Gormley’s plan to install a water meter in every home in Ireland “represents a retrograde step towards the introduction of a regressive tax”.

The Labour Party believes that water is a basic and fundamental need and should not be treated like a market commodity. Many people, particularly the very old and the very young are heavily reliant on water for their health and wellbeing, and the notion of placing a charge on it, is objectionable.

She went on to describe the installation of water meters as “slapping unfair charges on people who can ill afford them”.

Under pressure

Speaking to this week, Tuffy noted that in October 2010 Labour’s then leader Eamon Gilmore said he would back water charges if meters were installed in every house.

However, a few months later the party ran anti-water charges advertisements in the run up to the 2011 General Election.

Tuffy noted that the charges had to be brought in as part of the country’s bailout deal with the Troika, recalling: “We were under a lot of pressure to bring them in.” She said that political parties sometimes have to change their stance on an issue “to take into account the [current] situation”.

There isn’t a party that hasn’t changed its position on some policy.

Tuffy acknowledged that there had been some “hiccups” in the setting up of Irish Water, but said this was to be expected when undertaking such “a huge venture”.

In light of the recent controversy over staff bonuses at the company, Tuffy said that she, like most people, “doesn’t particularly agree with bonuses”. However, she said that focusing on individual salaries was “totally missing the point” as large salaries need to be addressed by increased taxes.

Read: No extra 4% bonus for ‘exceptional’ Irish Water workers

“Irish Water need to be given a chance just to do their work,” she added. Last year, Tuffy said that the Labour party had “ceded too much ground” during its time in office.

When we asked if she included the u-turn on water charges in this summation, she said she did not.

Mass anti-water charges protests took place across the country yesterday.

Labour TD says party has ‘ceded too much ground to the right-wing point of view’

14 reasons why people don’t like and don’t trust Irish Water

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Órla Ryan

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