John Halligan to miss water bill vote

The Government has avoided a prospective controversy as John Halligan will be out of the country when an opposition water bill, which he signed before entering government, comes before the Dáil.

John Halligan to miss water bill vote

The Independent Alliance TD had been urged to support a bill due before the Dáil this week which calls for a referendum to ensure the public ownership of water would be enshrined in the Constitution.

The minister of state for training, skills, and innovation was among 39 TDs who initially signed the bill — and TDs yesterday called on Mr Halligan to back it.

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said: “John Halligan was in opposition while this bill was being drafted, he signed it, he is one of the 39 that are there. If it was good enough to sign on the opposition benches, it’s clearly good enough for him to sign now that he is in Government and all of the political parties are on record as saying they are opposed to privatisation.”

However, Mr Halligan will not have to vote on the issue as he is away on an official Government trip to Israel and Palestine this week.

The AAA-PBP grouping is also supporting the 35th Amendment to the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership Bill 2016) Bill which is being brought forward by Independents4Change’s Joan Collins.

Richard Boyd Barrett of the AAA-PBP said: “This is an acid test for democracy, for the political establishment in this country. Were they telling the truth about keeping our resources in public ownership or were they lying to the people? We will find out on Wednesday.”

Calling on Fianna Fáil to vote with the bill, Ms Collins said there had been “indirect contact” with the party.

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said: “While the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party has not yet discussed this motion, it is worth pointing out that public ownership of the water infrastructure was explicitly included as a condition of the confidence and supply agreement negotiated by our party after the general election.

“Fianna Fáil sought and secured in the agreement that ‘Irish Water will be retained as a single national utility in public ownership responsible for the delivery of water and wastewater services’.”

Brendan Ogle of the Right2Water group said there had been “countless international examples” that showed the “disastrous impact” of water privatisation on communities.

“In Detroit, Michigan, more than 70,000 people have had their water shut off, with similar processes occurring in Paris and Rome,” he said.

“Closer to home, more than one in five people in Britain now live in water poverty as fees are hiked up by private companies to prices families can’t afford.”

John Douglas of the Mandate trade union said a constitutional guarantee of public ownership would “protect water not only from future governments but from the pressure of European and international institutions which have a track record of supporting privatisation”.

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