Local TDs clash over Fine Gael water proposals

Disappointment has been expressed at Fianna Fáil and the Greens’ decision to vote against the Fine Gael Dáil motion this week which would have restored roads and radically shaken-up the water services in Mayo. However the Fine Gael proposal in turn has been dubbed “hypocritical” and labelled as another political stunt by Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Flynn.

The Fine Gael Dáil private members’ motion addressed the recent weather crisis and called for an immediate release of emergency funding through the NRA to restore damaged roads and for responsibility for water services to be put into a new State utility company — ‘Irish Water’. Currently Ireland’s 29 county councils and five city councils are responsible for the management of water infrastructure in their areas. The Fine Gael plan would take responsibility for water supply and water investment out of the hands of the local authorities.

“As was clearly seen in Mayo, before, during, and after the weather crisis, Fianna Fáil and the Greens completely dropped the ball on the provision of water and on providing safe roads,” criticised John O’Mahony TD.

“For people across Mayo the fact that the same Government has now voted down proposals that would have restored the damaged roads and overhauled how water is provided can only be considered another slap in the face.

“I have raised this issue time and time again in the Dáil and was delighted when Fine Gael brought forward plans to sort out the mess with our water services and roads. As Environment spokesman, Phil Hogan TD pointed out, the Fine Gael proposals would have immediately released emergency funding through the NRA to restore damaged roads. All across Mayo roads were not only damaged by the floods but, often, all but destroyed by the freeze that followed,” Deputy O’Mahony outlined.

However Dep Flynn said the fact that Fine Gael is proposing the establishment of another “quango” is hypocritical.

Dep Michael Ring, who has also got involved in the debate, said the provision of water was even more chaotic with many houses and business left without water. “Ireland has a fragmented, outdated, and inefficient water network that demands new solutions rather than just patching up a few pipes. The Fine Gael plan would have revolutionised how water is provided by creating a single water utility company which would be fully responsible for water supply and investment across the country. This would fund interconnection across Irish water supplies to ensure constant supply. We can rapidly increase investment in water infrastructure through this water utility company as it will be funded through existing charges and raised finance.”

However the plan was voted down by the Government parties. “A little leadership and modest amount of will power was all that was needed to sort out our roads and water,” Dep Ring said. “Unfortunately the Fianna Fáil/Green Government refused to provide this and it is to the cost of everyone in Mayo that they chose to play politics rather than sort out the problems across the county and the country.

“I will continue to push for our roads to be restored and for decent provision of water and hope those Government TDs who voted this plan down see the error of their ways,” Dep Ring added.

But according to Dep Flynn the Government has been forthright on this issue. “Water rates will have to be introduced in some form in the next year or two. The details are currently being finalised by the Environment Minister. What we need is a change in attitude about water management. We are all guilty of taking it for granted as a resource and we must manage it more effectively as a country,” she explained.

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