Friday 15 December 2017

Whole country ‘hopping mad’ and ‘talking about water charges’ – but not the Dáil

Independent Michael Healy Rae. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Independent Michael Healy Rae. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

The whole county is “hopping mad” and “talking about Irish Water”, the Dáil has been told.

Frustration over the delay in forming a new government spilled in the chamber of the Dáil today as TDs fought to hold a debate on water charges.

Ahead of an expected meeting between Fine Gael and Fianna Fái’s negotiating teams later this evening to try break the impasse, TDs described the ongoing wrangling as “a joke”.

Richard Boyd Barrett of the AAA-PBP said they should be allowed to “discuss the issue which is driving the entire country mad”.

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin O Caolain described water the “most important issue in the conservation of ordinary people”.

And Independent Michael Healy Rae said that while the “whole country” is talking about Irish Water, TDs weren’t allowed to.

A string of other TDs objected to the Dáil’s order of business which consists solely of statements on mental health which are due to conclude at 6.30pm.

Dublin TD Finian McGrath said the Dáil should be discussed how “two people were gunned down” in the capital last night.

“This is a major issue as well and this should be debated. With people being gunned down in pubs and houses is not acceptable,” he said, appealing to Fine Gael to extent the sitting time.

Fianna Fáil were also criticised by some deputies who claimed they were working with Fine Gael to suppress debate on Irish Water.

However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said his party were not involved in any “choreography” with Fine Gael.

He said they were “committed to assist in the formation of a government”, while other parties had stood back.

And Mr Martin said that while he did not oppose a debate on the issue of water, it would not resolve the problems being faced by the two negotiation teams.

“There is an obligation on everybody here to decide whether they want a government or not,” he said.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe said the topics being debated in the House this week were requested by opposition TDs and he was not open to changing the agenda.

Meanwhile sources close to the government negotiations have told that today’s talks will be crucial if a breakthrough is to be made.

Fianna Fáil is still not willing to compromise on its pre-election promise of suspending water charges for up to five years.

But Fine Gael ministers believe they have gone as far as can be expected by offering to stop charges for a period of between six and nine months

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