Friday 20 April 2018

FG's 'dirty dozen' gang up on Hogan at party meeting

Minister for the Enviroment Phil Hogan
Minister for the Enviroment Phil Hogan

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

Environment Minister Phil Hogan was confronted by a "dirty dozen" of angry backbench TDs over his handling of Irish Water at last week's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, it has emerged.

The TDs vented their fury at the Government's failure to contain or kill off the controversy engulfing Irish Water, which erupted last month when managing director John Tierney revealed €50m was paid to consultants last year.

The weekly behind-close-doors meeting of the Fine Gael party was dominated by the issue of Irish Water.

Sources at the meeting have said that there was also concern expressed at the choice of Mr Tierney as managing director, on foot of his senior role in the controversial Poolbeg incinerator project.

Mr Tierney faces a fresh showdown with the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that wants to quiz him on the €96m cost of the stalled incinerator, which looks unlikely to proceed.

At the meeting, several members of the backbench rebel group – known as the five-a-side gang and which included Brendan Griffin, Paul Connaughton, Eoghan Murphy and Tony Lawlor – railed against Mr Hogan and the Government's rushing and guillotining of the legislation.

"The five-a-side boys got up almost one after the other and had a go not only about the consultants but about the controversy over consultants, the rushing through of the bill and the lack of certainty on the cost," said one source at the meeting.

Mr Hogan responded to the criticisms by saying: "Have you fellows not heard of the Troika?"

Mr Griffin, who represents the Kerry South constituency, told the meeting that he had no issue with the principle of paying for water, but the disastrous handling of the transition to Irish Water was damaging the ability to sell the merits of it to the public.

Cork North West TD Michael Creed reportedly told the meeting that unless the Government ended the controversies engulfing Irish Water, then it could have disastrous implications for the local and European elections.

It has also emerged at the meeting that junior Energy Minister Fergus O'Dowd's secretary general emailed to apologise over the non-replying of Parliamentary Questions from opposition environment spokespersons, Barry Cowen of Fianna Fail and Brian Stanley of Sinn Fein.

The meeting was told that steps would be taken to ensure there would be no repeat of the oversight.

Irish Independent

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