independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan faces 'slap on wrist' after Dail dirty water stunt

Independent TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan during the heated Dail debate.

INDEPENDENT TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan is set to get a "slap on the wrist" after challenging a government minister to drink a glass of contaminated water during a heated Dail debate on water charges.

He marched across the Dail with a glass of contaminated water from his own town of Castlerea in Roscommon where a 'boil' notice is in place due to the presence of cryptosporidium in the water.

In a break with Dail tradition, Mr Flanagan put the glass down in front of junior minister Fergus O'Dowd and challenged him to drink this "glorified p*ss".

"It has got cryptosporidium in it. Kids outside my town cannot even brush their teeth with this water, and the Government is going to charge them for it," he said.

The incident during the debate on the bill to set up Irish Water prompted an emergency meeting of the Dail's disciplinary body.

It was described in the Dail by Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett as an "act of vandalism".

The Irish Independent has learned that the Dail's Committee on Procedures and Privileges, chaired by Mr Barrett, is set to write to Mr Flanagan to express its strong disapproval of his actions.

It has been described as a "slap on the wrist" -- although the committee has reserved the right to revisit the issue in the new year.

One of the ideas being considered is to strengthen the powers of Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, who has very little powers to deal with TDs who engage in such activities.

Mr Barrett displayed his anger when he arrived to take up his duties just minutes after the incident had happened.

"Never before in the history of this chamber have I seen such behaviour by a member in walking down and handing a glass of dirty water to a minister. That is just outrageous and unacceptable behaviour," he said.

Mr O'Dowd did not drink the glass of contaminated water.

He told the Irish Independent afterwards that while Mr Flanagan's actions were not appropriate, he understood the TD's frustration.

He said 90pc of the people in the country with 'boil water' notices were in Roscommon.

"This is what Irish Water is being set up to do -- to resolve problems like this," he said.

However, Mr Flanagan's actions were criticised by his fellow Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Denis Naughten who pointed out that he took no part in the subsequent debate on possible amendments to the bill.

Mr Naughten called for the Government to give a legal guarantee that people being supplied contaminated water would not be charged for it.

PROMISED

Mr O'Dowd promised on behalf of the Government that this would be addressed in future legislation relating to water charges coming in the new year.

He was involved in another heated exchange with a government backbencher about how accountable Irish Water would be to the Dail.

Labour Clare TD Michael McNamara told him to "cut out the bluff and the bluster" because Irish Water would not be answering questions about water problems in local areas.

Mr O'Dowd said: "The deputy is the one who is blustering. I resent that."

Irish Independent

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