Enda Kenny moved to try and paper over Coalition cracks caused by the Irish Water controversy despite Tánaiste Joan Burton refusing to rule out the row sinking the Government.
In a show of public solidarity as they launched a jobs initiative, they insisted they had a “very strong” relationship in the wake of Coalition in-fighting after Ms Burton told the Dáil she expected a family of four adults would pay less than €200 a year for water.
Following a meeting of the Economic Management Council which they att-ended with the finance and public expenditure ministers, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste insisted the Government had not been blown off course by the continuing problems with water pricing.
However, Mr Kenny acknowledged he would have to work to regain the “trust” of voters with the scheduled next general election being just over a year away.
Mr Kenny said the EMC meeting, which Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Energy Minister Alex White also attended in order to try and produce a coherent Government policy on water, had gone well.
Mr Kenny said all were agreed the pricing structure should be fair and affordable but it would not be unveiled for up to two weeks.
The Taoiseach said he did not believe the water controversy would sink the Government, but Ms Burton side-stepped the issue when repeatedly asked, stating the electorate would ultimately decide.
The Tánaiste also would not be drawn when asked if her remarks on bills being less than €200 marked a return to the days when some Fine Gael figures used to privately brand her “Rogue Joan”.
In later Dáil exchanges, Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley accused Ms Burton of ramming Irish Water “down the throats of Irish people” without proper consideration of the impact it would have.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald insisted Ms Burton did not care about the hardship the imposition of water charging was imposing on many families and pensioners. She said the way forward was to abolish the payment regime and hold a referendum that would enshrine the utility was kept in public ownership.
The Tánaiste hit back saying it was Sinn Féin which was out of touch with the lives of most people in Ireland as she cited a New York fundraising dinner Gerry Adams was attending this week where seats cost €500 a head, she claimed.
Ms Burton said the €500 figure would be well above the charges most families would have to pay as she accused Sinn Féin of “living the high life in America” while reverting to an “ordinary life” in Ireland.
Ms McDonald accused the Tánaiste of trying to distract attention from the real issues.
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