Joe O'Toole blames his 'straight talking' and Fianna Fáil control of Government on downfall

Joe O’Toole has blamed his decision to step down as chairman of the expert commission on water charges on his “straight talking” and Fianna Fáil’s ability to control the Government.

The former trade union boss was forced to step down as chairman yesterday after critical comments he made in the Irish Examiner this week sparked calls for his immediate resignation.

Mr O’Toole’s decision leaves the commission in crisis at a crucial time, with Housing Minister Simon Coveney set to tell Brussels about Ireland’s plan to suspend water charges.

As pressure mounted from parties for Mr O’Toole to consider his position, the former senator announced last night he had wanted to stay but had no choice but to quit.

Mr Coveney had told him the main opposition party — namely Fianna Fáil — would not co-operate with the Government as long as Mr O’Toole remained as chair, he said in a statement.

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

“Effectively then for me to remain in situ would result in the Government being spancilled (hobbled) in implementing policy and enacting legislation,” he said.

Mr O’Toole said walking away was disappointing but the right thing to do given the Government is facing enough problems. “I am comfortable with the fact that I put my views honestly and transparently on the record. It is regrettable that my straight-talking has caused difficulties for others but in that regard I am unlikely to change anytime soon.”

Wishing his successor the best of luck, Mr O’Toole, who only took up his post a few days ago, noted that a week is a long time in politics.

His decision follows pressure from Fianna Fáil TDs for him to consider his position and calls from the Anti Austerity Alliance to resign.

Mr Coveney told a committee yesterday that he had talked to Mr O’Toole by phone. He failed to express confidence in him when asked by TDs.

In the interview with the Irish Examiner this week, Mr O’Toole slammed left-wing politicians, said he supported water charges, and mooted the idea of Irish Water ‘bonds’ being sold.

Mr O’Toole said he found it “extraordinary” that left-wing politicians are “opposed” to the ‘polluter pays’ principle and they, including AAA TD Paul Murphy, were “completely and utterly wrong” on the issue.

He told a radio station the job of the commission might be to produce a report and solution that would “have enough sugar on it to make the medicine go down easily”.

Opposition TDs interpreted this as a sign the commission might have a predesigned position, potentially to make some sort of water charge acceptable in future.

In a statement last night, Fianna Fáil said it took “no pleasure in Joe’s departure but we believe that he has done the right thing in stepping aside”.

Housing spokesman Barry Cowen said: “The decision of the chair to pre-empt any examination of the facts and promote his personal view of what should happen next is clearly incompatible with the role he was appointed to. We were not consulted on Joe’s appointment, but we did welcome it.”

More on this topic

Formal complaint over high level of chemical contamination in Irish waterFormal complaint over high level of chemical contamination in Irish water

Excess levels of chlorine pumped into Dingle reservoirExcess levels of chlorine pumped into Dingle reservoir

Staff at Irish Water threatened with machete and rocks by publicStaff at Irish Water threatened with machete and rocks by public

Pesticides still being detected in Cork water suppliesPesticides still being detected in Cork water supplies


Lifestyle

Bless me readers, I have sinned. This week, we had more than a few visitors around, some water was wasted in the back garden and I was judgmental about my friends’ parenting style.Learner Dad: The highlight was when my daughter roared, ‘this is just like being on holidays’

Wearing gloves when out in public has become more prevalent and so has pulling them on in the garden during lockdown, writes Ray RyanIreland's growing love for gardening

Dublin songstress, Imelda May.Imelda May returns with spoken word album Slip Of The Tongue

Tackling skin pigmentation requires patience, but it doesn’t need to be difficult.The Skin Nerd: What should be my first step towards lightening age spots?

More From The Irish Examiner