A report from a special commission on water charges will next week go before the new committee on water charges, to be chaired by Independent Senator Pádraig O Ceidigh. The 20 members will be formally announced today but a row broke out yesterday in the Dail over how the chair and members was decided by the Government.
Cork North Central AAA-PBP TD Mick Barry said: “Let’s be clear on what’s going on here. This is an attempt on the part of the government with support on the Fianna Fáil benches to pull a sly one on the issues of the water charges committee.”
Party colleague Richard Boyd Barrett said when Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil decide “in some sort of backroom deal” who the chair is, “that’s when things begin to go off the rails”.
The row will reduce hope that TDs and senators can come to an amicable agreement on how water services are funded and what happens to charges.
The committee will debate the commission report and make its own recommendations by March next year, before the Dáil votes and makes a final decision. It has already been reported that the commission may conclude some form of water charges should be introduced, to meet EU rules.
Labour’s Brendan Howlin though agreed yesterday it was unusual for a committee itself not to decide on a chairman, rather than the Government.
Despite the opposition, Dáil row and brief adjournment yesterday, TDs Senator O Ceidigh was later confirmed as chairman after a 92 to 39 vote.
TDs and senators last night identified on the water committee include Fine Gael’s Martin Heydon, Colm Brophy, Kate O’Connell, Alan Farrell, and Paudie Coffey. Fianna Fáil will be represented by Barry Cowen, Willie O’Dea, Mary Butler, John Lahart and Catherine Ardagh. Others on the committee will include Jan O’Sullivan (Lab), Paul Murphy (AAA-PBP), Eoin O’Broin and another to be decided (Sinn Fein), Noel Grealish (Rural Independent Group), Seamus Healy (Technical Group), and other Oireachtas members as well as the chair Senator Pádraig O Ceidigh.
Water charges were the most contentious issue when it came to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agreeing a support deal during the government formation talks. Fianna Fáil wants to do away with the current charging regime while Fine Gael wants some sort of billing to cover the costs for Irish Water.