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More rough seas ahead for Kenny as Joan muddies the Irish water

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Alan Kelly and John Tierney at a media briefing in Dublin. Photo: Gereth Chaney

Alan Kelly and John Tierney at a media briefing in Dublin. Photo: Gereth Chaney

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Alan Kelly and John Tierney at a media briefing in Dublin. Photo: Gereth Chaney

At this sorry stage of the Irish Wojus debacle, it's not so much a government U-turn as a government S-bend which is in full flow, as the twisty tale gets ever more tortuous.

On Monday the Waterboys - Alan Kelly and Irish Water chief John Tierney - were singing off the same 'it's-not-me-it's-him' sheet, as the Environment Minister pointed a firm finger of blame in the direction of his predecessor Phil Hogan in relation to the water charges brouhaha.

But despite the pair also duetting on an apology to the irate citizenry, the opposition had no intention of smoking a peace pipe in the Dail chamber when the Taoiseach took his place for Leaders' Questions yesterday.

Ironically, the opposition leaders were so eager to pile into Enda that they failed to notice the nugget of information the Tanaiste had casually produced a few minutes earlier when Joan announced she was "perfectly happy to say that it's my view" that a family of four would be paying "below €200" for water usage.

Goodness. If that's the case, then given the rate at which the Government is doing a fast backstroke from water charges, any day now it'll be paying us for running baths and washing dogs and the like. (Alas, various backroom spinners afterwards did a fast crawl away from this startling declaration, explaining that it was indeed only Joan's view).

The Taoiseach was in a defiant mood; before Leaders' Questions kicked off (in every sense of the word), he requested a drink of water by blithely waving about the glass in front of him.

But it was to be a glass half-empty sort of afternoon for Enda - he was in hot water right from the off. Micheal Martin got stuck in straight away over last Saturday's massive protest marches. "It's clear they are angry at your arrogance, at the detached nature of the Government, its inability to listen, to be clear about anything and to simply understand that many people are not in a position to pay water charges," he reckoned. "Is it time to step down the company before this debacle gets worse?"

Enda conjured up a pithy riposte. "It is time actually for Irish Water to step up," he replied. But as the brickbats rained in upon him from the far side of the chamber, it was clear that he is rattled by the intensity of the pressure. At one stage, he fluffed the name of new Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice, and while trading blows with Gerry Adams he lost track of his insult…"You run with the…with the…" he stumbled.

"Hounds?" suggested Gerry helpfully.

"…tide of people who say 'Okay, I'm not going to pay these water charges', obviously he has gone down the road of utter populism. It is not the first time he has changed his mind or his tune either," continued a cranky Enda, reminding the Sinn Fein leader that a fortnight ago he had stated that he would pay his water charges "for your holiday home in Donegal" before doing a U-turn of his own.

It all got very tetchy. "You know all about changing your tune," snapped Gerry, raising the Coalition's election manifesto. "You tore it up as soon as you got your bum on that seat".

But Enda knew what Paddy wants when it comes to Irish Wojus. "Clarity, certainty and fairness…" he began. Howls of derision rose from the far side of the chamber.

Clarity, eh? Well thanks to Joan Burton's declaration on charges which managed to muddy the waters even further, the situation is still as clear as a goblet of Roscommon H2O.

The Government is just about treading water - minus one former main player of course.

At the beginning of the Order of Business, the Ceann Comhairle announced the formal resignation from Dail Eireann of new EU Commissioner Phil Hogan on Saturday, November 1, just as 150,000 people poured on to the streets.

"His timing is impeccable," said Micheal Martin wryly. Good old Phil - he's not drowning, he's waving bye-bye from Brussels, leaving his former companeros splashing about in deep water like a load of headless ducks.

Irish Independent