TD Byrne lashes out at spitting and kicking ‘thugs’

Catherine Byrne TD

A TD whose son is a garda has lashed out anti-water protesters for spitting at and kicking members of the force and called campaigners against the levy "thugs".

Fine Gael’s Catherine Byrne made the comments during a day-long debate on the Government’s attempts to save its water charge regime and ease public opposition to the levy.

Most Fine Gael and Labour deputies welcomed the reformed water charges but Opposition TDs said the future finances for Irish Water were now “shaky” and people would still not pay.

Dublin TD Ms Byrne told Socialist TDs who led recent charged demonstrations: “You will never be the law. It is the gardaí.”

She said her son was a garda and condemned the spitting at and kicking of members of the force at recent demonstrations.

Meanwhile, former junior health minister Roisin Shortall said that, despite the lower level of charges now being asked of households, the levy was still a “charge too far for people”.

The new arrangements did not take account of people’s ability to pay and had nothing to do with conservation, said the former Labour TD.

Furthermore, the rebates and grants that would be paid back to homes at the end of next year would come from competing funds for schools or hospitals, Ms Shortall claimed. The rebates could cost €130m, she added, and detract from spending elsewhere.

Ms Shortall questioned the ability of Irish Water to be funded properly if households held off paying until penalties kick in, after the middle of 2016.

She dismissed claims that a referendum might be held on the ownership of water services in future and said a future government could renege on this.

Independent Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly claimed the State could end up losing money by trying to pursue people for debts.

People before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was clear that there was no need to have a water meter in every home and that “district meters” in areas would instead, at a cheaper cost, show up serious leaks.

Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, called for all documents on Irish Water and the new charging regime to be brought before his committee so its costs could be thoroughly examined.

A number of Fine Gael TDs have criticised how the Government had originally dealt with debate in the Dáil around the water charges.

Kerry South TD Brendan Griffin said the parliament was “not fit for purpose” and that there needed to be a “fundamental shift in how to do business here”.

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