SF 'grandstanding' on water charges abolition, says FF
Published 25/05/2016 | 02:30
Sinn Féin's attempt to immediately abolish water charges is "simple grandstanding", Fianna Fáil has claimed.
The two opposition parties engaged in a bitter war of words across the Dáil chamber last night as TDs formally debated the future of Irish Water.
Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen said a motion placed by Sinn Féin, seeking the immediate abolition of charges and Irish Water, was a case of Gerry Adams's party "reverting to type".
He said that in its negotiations with Fine Gael ahead of the formation of a government, Fianna Fáil had secured a suspension of charges and a Dáil vote on the issue.
Mr Cowen added: "Today's deeply misleading motion wilfully ignores the progress that was made on this critical issue between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Sinn Féin dives for cover in the nearest ditch."
Mr Adams said Fianna Fáil's mandate was to abolish Irish Water, adding: "Their manifesto says nothing about kicking it down the road to a Dáil committee or a commission of inquiry."
His party colleague, Eoin Ó Broin, added: "Any suggestion that you are in line with your campaign during the General Election is fundamentally dishonest.
"Deputy Cowen, your manifesto has four references to Irish Water. All of them say, 'abolish Irish Water and end water charges.'"
But Fianna Fáil's Shane Cassells said the debate was an "opportunity for Sinn Féin to say thank you" to his party.
Amid sometimes rowdy scenes in the Dáil, he said Sinn Féin TDs "sniggering from the gallery" confirmed they had "failed to achieve anything".
On behalf of the Government, Simon Coveney, who is now the minister with responsibility for Irish Water, said the Government was "trying to take the heat out of the issue" by allowing a nine-month window for a commission to do its work.
"We're going to get experts from Ireland and the rest of the world to make recommendations," he said, "and the Oireachtas committee that takes those recommendations will be bound by them. An issue as important as water surely deserves that window."
Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath said he wanted to use the debate to "set the record straight" about his position on water.
The Independent TD said he supported the process of a commission, followed by a Dáil vote and added: "Judge me when that happens.
"It will be crucial for the review to take into account people who have paid their charges and not let them be disadvantaged."
Hundreds of protesters are expected to gather outside Leinster House at 5pm today when the Dáil votes on the Sinn Féin motion and counter-motions by both the Government and Fianna Fáil.
The Government's motion is expected to pass.