Council could be run by Department of Environment as politicians defaulted on legal budget duty
A COUNTY council could be run by the Department of the Environment from next week after politicians protesting against Irish Water defaulted on their legal duty to pass a budget.
Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein joined forces to refuse to rubber-stamp Donegal County Council’s €138 million budget for 2014.
They were supported by an independent councillor amid bitter clashes with Fine Gael representatives at County House in Lifford.
They had until midnight to agree the budget before breaching legislation which means the council will could come under the control of Minister Phil Hogan and his department from next week.
It was the third day of meetings to end without an agreement. Councillors have agreed to return next Monday in a last ditch attempt to save the body.
Fianna Fail whip Cllr Ciaran Brogan said the water service and the budget were “intrinsically linked.”
He told the meeting: “We are being asked to transfer assets in Donegal with a value of €354 million and we should not be handing over those assets anyone.
“We had to take a stand for the people of Donegal and we have to send a message to this Government in Dublin.
“With the Water function being taken away from the Council, Irish Water will have the power to increase the cost of our water – and it’s our water - year on year and we cannot and will not stand for that.
“One day our water could be owned by a German company and we cannot stand back and allow that to happen.”
At one stage Mayor Ian McGarvey (Ind) was forced to adjourn the meeting amid bitter recriminations between councillors.
Cllr Terence Slowey (FG) accused Fianna Fail of hypocrisy, insisting: “We only have Irish Water because the country was bankrupt and it was Fianna Fail which bankrupted us.”
County manager Seamus Neely used one of the adjournments to provide members with a copy of the Water Services Act, signed into law on Christmas Day.
He told members that all of the assets have not yet transferred to Irish Water but they would do so by Ministerial Order.
However councillors voted to reject 15 to 13 to reject the budget but after an appeal from county manager Seamus Neely councillors agreed to return next Monday for “last ditch” talks.