A Fine Gael councillor has rejected claims that the party’s representatives on Galway County Councilare rebelling against the present Government.
Cllr Peter Roche was responding to claims by Independent Cllr James Charity that Fine Gael councillors’ acceptance that domestic water charging was a policy being pursued solely at the behest of the current Government was tantamount to “open rebellion” against the Fine Gael – Labour coalition.
In Friday’s monthly meeting of the local authority at the Connemara Coast Hotel in Furbo, Cllr Charity tabled a motion, seconded by Independent Cllr Karey McHugh, which called on Galway County Councilto recognise that domestic water charges could not, at this juncture, “be deemed a policy attributable to the previous Fianna Fáil – Green government”.
Furthermore, the motion, which was unanimously agreed by all members present, called on GalwayCounty Council to call on Government to immediately suspend the implementation of domestic water charging. There are no Labour members of Galway County Council.
“It was startling that the Fine Gael councillors present, having been made fully aware of the motion’s contents by the Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, then choose to agree unanimously to the passing of the motion, as did all other councillors in the Chamber,” commented Cllr Charity.
“This sends a clear message to the Taoiseach and the Fine Gael parliamentary party that their troops on the ground are in open rebellion and disarray with respect to the policy of implementing water charges and the operations of Irish Water,” he said.
However, Cllr Peter Roche, who is Chair of the Tuam Municipal District, said his vote was not an act of rebellion against the Government, but against Irish Water’s management of the introduction of domestic water charges.
“I think this Government has done a spectacular job in a lot of areas, but this is one area that I suppose maybe hasn’t been spectacularly managed from the get-go,” said Cllr Roche.
Cllr Roche said that none of the councillors on the Fianna Fáil – Fine Gael controlling pact could oppose the motion given the strength of public opinion on the issue.
“Personally, if I were to say that I were voting against it, what that would be saying to the public is that I support the fiasco, or perceived fiasco, that’s out there,” he said.
With regard to the motion’s assertion that domestic water charges were now exclusively a policy pursued by the present Government, Cllr Roche accepted that “there was absolutely no differing view in the room at all”.
Cllr Roche said he believed issues such as leaks in the country’s water infrastructure and water quality issues needed to be resolved before Irish Water took control of the water network.
“There’s a serious question about the credibility and authority of Irish Water. I suppose Phil Hogan’s concept was probably a good one, but it hasn’t really made the mark,” he said.
“It is now over a year since this transition first started and we’re no further today that we were back then, only more people are confused and annoyed and I sincerely hope that that is one of the issues that Irish Water start to resolve.”
As opposition to water charges across the country gathers momentum, Irish Water application packs are to be burned at a mass protest set to take place at the Spanish Arch this Saturday, 1 November at 1pm.
Dette McLoughlin of protest organisers Galway Right2Water said the Government had now been reduced to “bully-boy tactics” and called on Galway householders to encourage neighbours, family, friends and workmates to join the protest.