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Water Charges

A smart-alec Tánaiste giving smart-alec answers... That's what Mary Lou thinks of Joan

“I’m sorry that’s not good enough … and I’m sorry if this breaches Dáil etiquette.”

Updated at 1.24pm

SINN FÉIN DEPUTY leader Mary Lou McDonald unleashed a tirade against Joan Burton in the Dáil this afternoon over what she contended was an attempt by the Tánaiste to avoid answering a question about water charges.

“You know what Tánaiste, if anyone had any doubt as to whether or not you gave a toss about struggling families, they’ve had —by your smart-alec, dismissive and inaccurate response — they have their answer.”

The row centred on a letter sent by Wicklow County Council to tenants in the Rental Accommodation Scheme — which is run by local authorities — warning them that they may face eviction if they don’t pay their water charges.

Addressing concerns raised by McDonald, Burton pointed out that Sinn Féin and independent councillors controlled the Council, and suggested local representatives should contact their county manager to discuss the situation.

But a fuming McDonald accused her of deliberately misrepresenting how government works, saying it was local authorities’ responsibility to administer policy laid down in Dublin.

“Smart-alec Tánaiste thinks it is smart to disregard the concerns that RAS tenants now have that their inability to pay your awful charge could jeopardise their home,” McDonald said.

“You stand up and give me a smart-alec response.

I’m sorry that’s not good enough … and I’m sorry if this breaches Dáil etiquette.

Who pays for water?

McDonald’s presentation of the Council letter in the chamber comes in the wake of uncertainty in recent days over the position of landlords whose tenants can’t or won’t pay their water charges.

Irish Water was telling people on Twitter yesterday that if a tenant refused to pay, the landlord would be held accountable. A revised statement today from the semi-state didn’t really clear the matter up, and Finance Minister Michael Noonan said this morning that more clarity was needed.

Indeed, Sinn Féin’s own Pearse Doherty even took to Twitter yesterday to try and find out what would happen in cases like the one being faced by the tenants in Wicklow…

Burton’s take… 

Amid sustained heckling from the Sinn Féin backbenches, the Tánaiste told McDonald today that she should put a phone-call in to her own party’s public representatives in Wicklow.

She also talked up the water charges relief measures introduced as part of Tuesday’s Budget, which she said would benefit “something like 700,000 households”.

“That would be the first thing I suggest that your councillors advise the tenants of,” Burton said.

After McDonald’s ‘smart-alec’ comments, the Tánaiste changed strategy in her second response, talking up the various other measures introduced by ministers Noonan and Howlin this week which she said would benefit struggling families

“I’m not sure you have much experience of what it is like not to be well-off or to be unemployed,” she said…

But she was drowned out by a chorus of angry voices as she continued along the same tack, advising McDonald, essentially, not to lecture her on such issues.

“There’s an awful lot of angry men in Sinn Féin, I will say that,” Burton observed, as the heckling continued.

Lads, lads try and control it… It’s being turned on and off like a water tap.

“Try and just put a stop to it.

Burton eventually ran out of response time in the session, but she finished her answer by again advising Sinn Féín to take the issue up with Council management in Wicklow.

Read: Joan Burton is, in fact, “delighted” that people have expensive phones and cameras

Read: Payback, buying an election and “Be Happy” – how the papers saw Budget 2015

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