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Joe O'Toole resigns as head of water commission

The chairman of the commission had been under intense pressure after saying he believed water charges should be paid.

File Photo The chair of the Expert Commission on Water Joe O'Toole Source: RollingNews.ie

JOE O’TOOLE HAS stepped down as chairman of the commission investigating the water situation in Ireland.

O’Toole’s resignation was widely expected after intense criticism followed an interview he gave to the Irish Examiner in which he said he thought people should pay their water charges.

In a statement, O’Toole said he had intended to stay on as the chair of the commission until Minister for the Environment Simon Coveney “informed me that the main opposition party would not cooperate with government on this and related issues for as long as I remained in the chair”.

Despite the support of Minister Coveney this is a situation I am not prepared to countenance and therefore I am withdrawing from the position.
I thank Minister Coveney for his confidence in me and in wishing the commission and my successor every success I hope that they will receive the kind of support they deserve.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, O’Toole expressed his support for water charges and the polluter-pays principle, which opponents to the charges believed made his position untenable.

He also said that parties such as the AAA-PBP were “completely and utterly wrong” on the issue of water charges.

Responding to the news of O’Toole’s resignation, Sinn Féin said that the commission is now “in crisis”.

“Minister Coveney said that the purpose of establishing an expert independent commission on the future of domestic water charges was to take the heat out of the political debate,” said party spokesman on water Eoin Ó Broin.

However only a week since the Minister announced the membership of the Commission its chairperson Joe O’Toole has resigned.
His description of the purpose of the Commission as designed to ‘find a solution that will have enough sugar on it to make the medicine go down easily’ confirms what many of us suspected, namely that the government’s intention is to use the Commission to force water charges through despite public and political opposition.

Fianna Fáil meanwhile said it “takes no pleasure” in O’Toole’s resignation.

“There have been few more contentious issues in politics in recent years than the issue of Irish Water, and the botched water charging regime that it introduced,” the party’s environment spokesman Barry Cowen said.

The decision of the chair to pre-empt any examination of the facts and promote his personal view of what should happen next is clearly incompatible with the role he was appointed to.

Kerry native O’Toole, a former senator, previously served as head of both the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (Into) and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu).

He retired from the Seanad after 24 years in 2011.

Read: Irish Water have finally stopped sending out bills – here’s what it means to you

Read: The government has handpicked these ‘water experts’ to tell us what to do with Irish Water

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