Thursday 22 March 2018

Snap election threat 'if Coveney does not accept water recommendations' - Fianna Fáil warns

Barry Cowen rejects suggestions row is over infamous tweet about his brother

The Irish Water gang trio of Michael Martin, Simon Coveney and Enda Kenny
The Irish Water gang trio of Michael Martin, Simon Coveney and Enda Kenny
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The Government will collapse if Fine Gael Minister Simon Coveney refuses to accept recommendations laid down by the Oireachtas Water Committee, Fianna Fáil has warned.

In a clear heightening of tensions, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen accused Mr Coveney of making a “premature, unprecedented and nothing but political” intervention in the water row.

“Quite unbelievable,” Mr Coveney added.

The two parties are at loggerheads over the water issue, which has made the prospect of a snap election a real possibility.

Fine Gael want to introduce a system of “excessive usage” - a position that is being rejected by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

Speaking to reporters on the Dáil plinth, Mr Cowen ramped up the tensions with Mr Coveney.

“If he refuses to legislate, if he refuses to adhere to the Confidence and Supply Agreement and what’s contained within it, it’s him who is tearing it up and it’s him who is bringing down the government. Yes.”

Mr Cowen rejected suggestions that a tweet sent by Mr Coveney about his brother, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, is behind the latest row.

Mr Coveney’s tweet, sent following Mr Coveney’s infamous ‘Morning Ireland’ interview in 2010, read:

"God, what an uninspiring interview by Taoiseach this morning. He sounded half way between drunk and hungover and totally disinterested.”

Mr Cowen said the issue is now behind him and his family.

“There’s nothing personal in this by the way and I heard someone making that comment earlier on the radio in relation to what happened seven years ago. That’s a long way behind me I can tell you and everyone belonging to me.”

Mr Cowen declined to say whether he has confidence in the Attorney General Máire Whelan, whose advice is being relied upon by Fine Gael.

Pressed on whether his party would publish its own legal advice on its website, Mr Cowen’s colleague Willie O’Dea said this would be done later today. Mr Cowen later it could happen “today, tomorrow”.

Fianna Fáil also rejected claims that it does not support penalising people who waste water.

The party says the issue could be dealt with under the Water Services Act 2007.

Mr Cowen said his party supports the “thrust” of that piece of legislation, which includes hefty fines and court appearances for those who waste their water supply.

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