A defiant John Halligan has told “arrogant” Fine Gael ministers to “shut their mouths” and leave him and his fellow independent minister Finian McGrath alone over their refusal to pay water charges.
Mr Halligan, TD for Waterford, is expected to be named a junior minister in the Government by Taoiseach Enda Kenny next week, but was bullish in his defiance of Fine Gael calls for himself and Mr McGrath to pay their water bills.
Mr Kenny and several Fine Gael ministers called on Mr McGrath to pay his water bills. Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Halligan singled out comments by new chief whip Regina Doherty over the weekend as most unhelpful.
Mrs Doherty advised TDs who haven’t paid their water bills to do so as they won’t “magically disappear”.
“I don’t know what they are at. They should have shut their mouths on it and consulted with us first. It is only creating tension and showing a type of arrogance again,” he said. He argued Fine Gael knew his position and of Mr McGrath in relation to water charges during the negotiations.
Mr Halligan said he hasn’t paid any water charges as he hasn’t been billed, but that he is opposed to the principle of paying water charges.
“It is interesting in that I haven’t even been billed. I wouldn’t pay it anyway being honest.
“I think there is two issues. When they were negotiating this Programme for Government with us and ministerial positions, they knew our positions on this, well. It is also a newly structured Dáil with the whip being removed on votes of conscious and so on. We are only obliged to support the Government on votes of confidence and the budget,” he added. “When they were offering Finian McGrath a ministry, they knew he hadn’t paid his water charges, he had been saying it in the Dáil,” the Waterford TD said.
Mr Halligan said for him the decision to back Enda Kenny was difficult enough without this sort of conflict, as he has some people already calling him a “traitor” for entering Government, even though he won concessions on Waterford Hospital.
Last night, Mr Kenny joined the chorus of Fine Gael ministers who called on Mr McGrath to pay his water charges.
“Yes, he should pay his water charges, of course,” the Taoiseach said at an event in Dublin city centre.
Earlier, ministers Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe led the charge by saying they expected a fellow minister to comply with the law of the land and pay his charges.
Mr McGrath released a statement through the Department of Health, in which he said he would seek advice as to his non-payment of water charges.
“Minister McGrath is getting advice from the Attorney General and will be consulting with his Independent Alliance colleagues,” the statement said.
Original article: Daniel McConnell and Juno McEnroe, Irish Examiner, May 12, 2106