Micheál Martin: Axe Irish Water and give responsibility to councils

Party leader Micheál Martin addresses the media outside the Marine Hotel in Sutton Cross in Dublin yesterday, at the second day of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party think-in. Picture: Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland

Irish Water needs to be abolished and have its responsibilities given back to local councils in order to save the taxpayer money, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has insisted.

Speaking at his party’s pre-Dáil term think-in in Dublin, Mr Martin said a streamlined authority for overseeing water supply, modelled on the National Roads Authority (now part of a merger with t he Railway Procurement Agency called Transport Infrastructure Ireland) would be needed to co-ordinate strategic decisions.

He warned Irish Water had been allowed to become a bloated organisation which now needed to be got rid of. He said the NRA worked well with local councils in road building, and should be used as a model for a new overseeing organisation for water supply.

Michael McGrath, the party’s finance spokesman, attacked claims by Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin that it would cost €1bn to abolish Irish Water.

He said the Government had repeatedly refused Dáil requests to break-down the costs involved in the Irish Water structure.

Mr McGrath insisted the Coalition should accept that the Irish Water project was now in “tatters”.

The Cork TD said the fact that EU financial watchdogs Eurostat had ruled that Irish Water’s borrowings could not be separated out from national debt calculations underlined the failure of the enterprise.

Micheál Martin: Axe Irish Water and give responsibility to councils

Mr Martin expressed alarm at the Government’s attitude to the homelessness crisis, and said advocacy groups had warned children in emergency accommodation could die due to their surroundings.

“There is a chronic emergency in housing. The Government stands indicted. It is a scandal,” Mr Martin said.

He said the situation had deteriorated so much that while six months ago he would not have agreed with the proposition to provide pre-fab accommodation for the homeless, this was now better than people being put in unsuitable hotel and B&B accommodation.

Mr Martin also hit back at Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams after he branded the Fianna Fáiler “stupid” for calling for a suspension of the Belfast Assembly.

The Fianna Fáil leader said Mr Adams’ West Belfast Westminster constituency had a child poverty rate of 46%. “Before you call people stupid, account for your own 30 years of stewardship in West Belfast,” he said.

The last day of the think-in featured presentations from IFA president Eddie Downey, and independent broadcasters, before the TDs and senators held a meeting on electoral strategy.

The party says it is ready for a snap November general election, but strategists say late February or early March is more likely.

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