Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been branded patronising after telling some anti-water-charge protesters to “enjoy themselves”.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy seized on the remarks as a sign of how “out of touch” Mr Kenny was with the real world.
The Taoiseach was also accused of being “on the run” after Fine Gael stepped in to prevent the Dáil debating a Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach while tomorrow’s rally against the charges takes place outside the Dáil.
The row began as the Taoiseach urged Irish Water bosses to better explain the “very good story” of the utility’s achievements after its managing director, John Tierney, wrote to Mr Kenny to apologise for its performance.
Referring to American protesters who have flown to Dublin to take part in the protest, Mr Kenny said: “I’d like to welcome the visitors from Detroit. In America they don’t have any option. Its cut off, no relief. So they are very welcome as visitors to Ireland and I hope they enjoy themselves.”
Kildare North TD Ms Murphy said the comments would help bring more people on to the streets.
“It displays a very patronising attitude to the people taking part in the demonstration,” she said.
“They are here to show international solidarity and he should not dismiss that so lightly. This is about a lot more than Irish Water, as Mr Kenny himself has acknowledged.”
Opposition TDs also expressed anger that the Government moved to prevent Sinn Féin going ahead with its no confidence motion on the day of the demonstration, by instead putting down a motion expressing confidence in Mr Kenny to be debated today.
“It makes you question what kind of democracy we live in when a political group cannot discuss the subject of their choosing during the time allotted to them,” said Ms Murphy. “It also shows that this Government is on the run.”
Mr Kenny would not be drawn on Mr Tierney’s apology to him over the way Irish Water was launched, but urged the company to do more to sell itself to the public.
“I expect Irish Water to be out there in front explaining the very good story they have to tell to people,” said Mr Kenny.
He said the company would be dealing with the country’s huge loss of water due to leaks, and was needed to modernise the system.
Mr Kenny said that the “genuine concerns” expressed on previous marches had now been dealt with by the Government.
In a letter to the Taoiseach, Mr Tierney admitted the utility had fallen below the standards of service expected of it.
Mr Tierney has already made a public apology regarding the mistakes made by Irish Water.
The Detroit Water Brigade has campaigned against water charges in its home city and has come to Ireland to take part in the Right2Water march.
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