“Biased, unhelpful”, “positively dangerous”, and “sinister” is how Independent Cllr Catherine Connolly has described recent remarks by Padraig O’Ceidigh, blaming city councillors for the lead water crisis.
Cllr Connolly has reacted strongly to Mr O’Ceidigh’s comments, made on a national radio programme, saying such an allegation is “deliberately deflecting attention from the failure of city management” to “not only deal with the lead crisis but also to withhold information from the public and elected members”.
She also accused Mr O’Ceidigh of “deflecting attention” from the removal of “practically all powers from local representatives by the current Fianna Fáil/PD/Green Government, which she said, has left councillors “with only moral power which we have fully exercised”.
Cllr Connolly said the city councillors have been pro-active and responsible on the issue calling for the last week’s “immediate urgent meeting” as soon as the contamination came to light.
“All we received from city management at that meeting was a brief press release,” she said. “There was absolutely no detail on the houses affected, the level of lead in question, or the nature and extent of the problem.”
She added that Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, the public health expert, said he was not in a position to inform councillors as to the nature of the problem because he was still awaiting the information he had requested from the city council.
Cllr Connolly further challenged Mr O’Ceidigh’s assertions by pointing out that the 15 city councillors “acting unanimously” agreed that a second urgent meeting be convened and that full information be furnished as well as the attendance of the relevant expert from the Public Health Department.
“At that special five hour city council meeting at which the absence of any expert in the public health area was noted and deplored,” she said, “we directed the city manager to give free water to the residents in the areas affected, asked unanimously for door to door testing, asked for the area known as ‘the West’ to be included as a fifth area affected, and asked for all the lead pipes to be replaced.”
According to Cllr Connolly, city manager Joe MacGrath replied that door to door testing was not possible logistically nor were the resources available to do it. Councillors were also informed that City Hall would not be in a position to replace the lead service pipes going into residents’ houses.
According to Cllr Connolly, City Hall also said it could not provide free water but would provide subsidised water with special arrangements for the elderly and that all relevant documents would be supplied to the councillors in the coming week.
The Galway City West councillor said that what emerged in terms of factual information from the documents that were supplied at the meeting was “extremely worrying”.
“Not alone was management aware of various lead exeedances at various locations around the city,” she said, “but in certain cases actually took remedial works and replaced the lead pipes, as for example in a private house in Fr Griffin Road.
“Even more worrying was the director of service’s confirmation that he knew there were very high levels of lead in various houses including a house at Shantalla, but he could not divulge that information and therefore allowed the residents of the houses affected to continue drinking the water.
“Finally, the further facts which have emerged since that meeting, in particular that the new supply of free water to Old Mervue was contaminated and that city council management was fully aware of lead exeedances in 2004 is nothing short of scandalous and undermines any vestiges of trust in the city management.”
Cllr Connolly said that in light of the above for Mr O’Ceidigh to blame the elected representatives and praise City Hall officials, and describe city manager Joe MacGrath as a ‘very very good city manager with a bad board of directors’, is “nothing short of sinister”.
“I certainly will not be silenced by such bullying,” declared Cllr Connolly, “and will continue to ask questions and demand answers for as long as I am elected, not as a director of a company but as an elected city councillor - in the interests of the greater public good and in particular public health. The question however must be put - in whose interest is Padraig O’Ceidigh acting?”