Councillor in hot water for Facebook rainwater

Elizabeth Hourihan, right, and Rachel Murphy, of the National CitIzens Movement outside Cork City Hall demanding the resignation of FG councillor Laura McGonigle

A Fine Gael councillor and adviser to one of the party’s MEPs has apologised for suggesting water charges protestors should drink rain water and said that she has been "overwhelmed" by the reaction to her comments.

Laura McGonigle claimed the comments had been an attempt to highlight the cost of treating the public drinking supply.

The Cork City councillor, who works as a political assistant to Ireland South Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune, made the comment on her Facebook page on Saturday when an estimated 150,000 people marched in protest against the water charges. “They should collect all the rain water while out marching today and drink that for the week!” she posted.

Councillor in hot water for Facebook rainwater

The comment, since deleted, was in response to a Facebook discussion between Ms McGonigle and a number of other people on Saturday’s poor weather conditions and the protests.

“I’ve already had words with a woman in Marks and Spencer’s about the protest — I don’t think I’d cope listening to a thousand of them!” she also wrote.

The comments went viral online over the weekend, leading to Ms McGonigle issuing an apology yesterday.

“A suggestion had been made to me earlier that morning, that as a nation, we should not pay for our water as there was plenty of rain. I was attempting to highlight that rainwater is not safe for drinking and costs the State in the region of €1.2 billion per year to treat.

“I realise that my comments were open to a misinterpretation that I did not intend, I apologise for an offence this may have caused,” she stated.

A group of protesters outside Cork City Hall yesterday called on Ms McGonigle to resign her seat.

“We are calling on Enda Kenny to ask for her resignation or to confirm that by not seeking her resignation that he is endorsing what she said,” said Elizabeth Hourihane of the National Citizens Movement.

“Is this the level of representation we should expect in Cork, or the level of representation the Irish people should have to put up with?” she said.

In a second statement on her Facebook page, Ms McGonigle described the comments as ‘ill judged’.

“I don’t feel I can usefully add to this, other than to say again that I’m sorry.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the commentary which my comments have caused.”

Ms McGonigle, a former deputy mayor of Cork City, is a member of the 21-strong Fine Gael executive committee and sits on the body’s council of local public representatives.

She had been co-opted to a seat in Cork City Council’s South East ward in 2007 following Ms Clune’s election to Dáil Éireann. The councillor held the seat in 2009 and again in last summer’s local elections. However, in 2011, Ms McGonigle was unsuccessful in a bid for a seat on the Seanad’s industrial and commercial panel.

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