I knew water row would hurt Labour at polls but I was overruled - Lynch
Published 22/03/2016 | 02:30
Former Primary Care Minister Kathleen Lynch has claimed that several Labour Party TDs had opposed Phil Hogan's water charges strategy amid fears of its electoral fall-out.
Ms Lynch (62), who lost her seat in Cork North Central last month, has now revealed that she was one of a number of deeply concerned about the design and implementation of the water charges strategy. However, they did not speak out publicly after they were overruled by coalition chiefs.
The veteran politician admitted that she feared water charges would ultimately become a rod to beat the back of the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition.
However, the concerns at the implications of the proposed water charges structure were rejected by senior Labour Party officials and Fine Gael ministers.
"I pleaded that it shouldn't happen," she said.
"I knew because of where I come from and the background that I come from, I knew that it would be the straw that broke the camel's back."
Ms Lynch said that with her experience of grassroots protest campaigns in Cork in the 1980s and 90s, she feared that water charges would serve only as a catalyst for those determined to damage the Government.
She said her overarching fear was that the charges would also be used as a weapon to damage the Labour Party.
"There are some things you know are wrong and some things you know will have an impact that you don't want them to have. That is where I was in relation to water charges," she said, adding: "But I wasn't listened to."
Ms Lynch said her fears proved correct in that water charges were a key reason why many Labour TDs lost their seats.
Even a change in strategy when Labour TD Alan Kelly succeeded Phil Hogan as Environment Minister failed to quell the furious public campaign.
Ms Lynch lost her Dáil seat for the second time but vowed to continue in politics to help rebuild the Labour Party.
"Labour has to be rebuilt because it was a very bad (election) weekend for us," she said.
"We had a fantastic team, we got tremendous loyalty from some voters and there is no way I can ignore that.
"How can I walk away from such loyalty? There is a lot of work to be done for the Labour Party and I will play my part."
The 62-year-old mother of four had predicted that General Election 2016 would be a difficult and challenging campaign for Labour.
But she admitted that she did not expect the party to be reduced to just seven seats in the 32nd Dáil, even allowing for the fury over water charges.
"I am very philosophical about these things," she said.
"I lost my seat in 1997. Two years later, my mother died. There was no comparison. There are things in life that affect you more deeply than others. I know what is important. I know what is essential."
Ms Lynch was first elected to the Dáil in a 1994 by-election, lost her seat in the 1997 General Election but won it back in 2002, holding a Dáil berth until last month.
Cork North Central has been a four-seat constituency since 2007.
Ms Lynch added that she believed Ireland would face another General Election soon.