A row broke out in the Dáil today during a debate on the 'Establishment of a Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services'. Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail suspended the session for five minutes after refusing AAA/PBP Mick Barry finish a point of order. The full debate can be read here, however, to get a full picture it is best toread the previous item 'Order of Business', bottom page 20 for further controversy.
Mr Barry accused the Government of 'pulling a really sly one on the water charges committee'. He said that the Government with support of Fianna Fáil chose Pádraig Ó Céidigh to be chairman of the proposed committee. Mr 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.”
He said that in a previous committee on housing, the chairperson was not appointed by the Government after some “backroom conversations” with Fianna Fáil but was elected. What is being proposed here is the Government will pick the chairman of the committee."
That was as far as Mr Barry got. The Ceann Comhairle interrupted him andeventually suspending the session.
The objections, however, were not only about the Government handpicking Pádraig Ó Céidigh for the position as chair. It also involved the way it handled the 'Order of Bussiness' which the Government changed to allow the motion on the water committee to be brought forward.
A Sinn Féin motion to allow the special Oireachtas Water Charges Committee pick its own chairperson was defeated by the Government with the support of Fianna Fáil.
The Dáil voted to establish the special Oireachtas committee 93 to 38. This committee made up of 16 TD and 4 senators will discuss a report, due out next week, from a Domestic Water Commission which the Government had already set up. Incidentally this was another controversial issue in the long sage of Water Charges. Many in the Anti Water Charges movement believe that the outcome from the so called 'independent' commission is a foregone conclusion.
Minister Coveney hopes that the Oireachtas Select Committee will deliver it's recommendations sometime around end of March 2017 after which there will be a Dáil vote.