Thursday 29 June 2017

Cowen and Kelly trade insults in Dáil water bill farce

Alan Kelly argued that if charges are scrapped it will result in 'fines on a scale that we haven’t seen before'. Photo: Damien Eagers
Alan Kelly argued that if charges are scrapped it will result in 'fines on a scale that we haven’t seen before'. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A debate on water charges descended into a series of chaotic rows in the Dáil with Alan Kelly and Barry Cowen arguing over which of them was the "king of climb-downs".

During more than two hours of arguments last night, the Ceann Comhairle was forced to defend his impartiality, TDs claimed the process for reassessing charges was rigged and a Fine Gael backbencher said she felt the need for life guards in the chamber because she was "drowning in the misinterpretation of legislation".

Former environment minister Alan Kelly even described it as an "historic" occasion and a "unique moment" because he found himself standing up to agree with Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy.

Both TDs said the setting up of an expert commission and an Oireachtas Committee to review funding models for water was "a sham".

Mr Kelly argued that the EU Commission has made it known to his successor Simon Coveney that if charges are scrapped it will result in "fines on a scale that we haven't seen before".

He said this means the committee has "a predetermined outcome".

The Labour Party TD said the choice was "hefty fines" or "bringing in reasonable, affordable water charges".

And he then turned on Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen saying that he had landed the country in this position because of a "wild pursuit".

"The timeline for the duration of this House rests in your hands Deputy Cowen once this committee comes back because the report of this committee cannot go through this House without the support of Fianna Fáil.

"And given that it is, in my view a predetermined outcome, Deputy Cowen it will be the biggest political climb-down of your political career if you do that.

"And do you know something Deputy Cowen, I look forward to the day when you have to make that decision," he said.

Mr Cowen replied that his party had provided the way to allow "scrutiny" and "informed debate" on the issue, unlike Mr Kelly during his time as minister.

"He, along with the government of the day, rammed through legislation to give effect to the calamity which ensued.

"And he then assumed the role during the back end of that government to seek to take over that, and he has the cheek or the audacity to say to me that I might be faced with a climb-down. He is the king of climb-downs.

"There's nobody could surpass the excellence he has achieved in relation to climb-downs," Mr Cowen said.

Read more: 'Deal to suspend water charges has left us in 'an unholy mess'' - Alan Kelly

Irish Independent

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