Councillors have spoken out to condemn Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s remarks on water charges, in the wake of a very well attended protest march against water charges in Athlone last weekend.
An estimated crowd of 1,500 people, including several councillors from across the political spectrum, took to the streets of the town on Saturday afternoon to voice their objections to water charges.
On arrival at Monday’s Athlone Municipal District meeting, councillors took the opportunity to interrupt the agenda to discuss what Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran called the Taoiseach’s “smart, arrogant comments” on water charges.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny had suggested on Saturday that a 4 per cent increase in income tax was the only alternative to the charges.
“It is outrageous that the Taoiseach would come out in such a manner. I walked with the people last Saturday, and people are so discontented and angry,” said Cllr Moran.
“I would ask the council to write to the Taoiseach showing our anger at the way Irish Water is treating people. We hear people saying they just can’t pay.”
Cllr Moran had support from Cllr Michael O’Brien, who said water charges were going to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for people with lower and middle incomes.
“To come out and say taxes would have to be increased by 4 per cent is ludicrous,” he added.
While Cllr John Dolan (FG ) agreed that Irish Water’s handling of the charges had been “amateur”, he said he supported the concept of water charges.
“I sympathise with people, I know things are tough. But the reality is if we want proper water infrastructure... the money has to come from somewhere, and the fairest place is from the people who are using it,” he said.
However Cllr Paul Hogan (SF ) argued that people are already paying for water through general taxation.
“If the idea of Irish Water was to conserve water, they would have put the money that was spent on huge consultancy fees into upgrading our water. It’s about getting as much money out of people as possible,” he added.
Cllr Aengus O’Rourke (FF ) said the weekend’s protest marches had sent out “a very stark message” to the Government, and said the Taoiseach’s remarks would fuel even greater numbers at the next protests planned for December.
Mayor Frankie Keena also supported the proposal to write to the Taoiseach.