by James Quigley
In my last article I asked should the chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water, Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh have ensured that each session of the committee was included in all committee reports. I said that that question was put to him and that we did not receive a reply from him. It turns out my article wasn't wholly accurate.
Michael Mooney, Communities for Ireland’s 9.4 reminded me that he wrote twice to Mr Ó Céidigh in August this year and he received not one but two replies. Neither reply, however, was directly from the chairman himself. Rather they were sent indirectly through the committee secretary, Tom Sheridan. (see all letter below)
Michael pointed out that in a second email he informed the secretary that he was annoyed that Mr Ó Céidigh did not reply personally, in the first place. Hence the secretary's second reply.
However, apart from the etiquette question, what Mr Sheridan's replies in fact does is point out that both he and the Chairman Mr Ó Céidigh are in agreement.
This answer speaks for itself. The responsibility is now laid squarely on the members themselves and puts the onus on them to give us an explanation, firstly whether they agree with the committee secretary or not and secondly, If they agree and it would be amazing if they didn’t, then, they have to explain why they did not include any mention of February 15th session and in particular the 9.4 Exemption in any report. Did they replace the 9.4 Exemption or Ireland's ‘Established Practice’ with excessive charges and metering?
One of the reasons we dwell on this is because we have not got an adequate explanation to date from anyone. We have to determine who was responsible for setting the agenda for any of the committee’s reports. This is a highly significant line of questioning. Depending on the Oireachtas member's explanation, their answer will shed light on procedures and in particular why there was a total omission of what we believe to be the central and most significant session of the whole committee, namely February 15th session.
Not only does it question the bona fides of those who professed to be acting in the interest of the majority of Irish people opposing Irish Water, water charges and metering but it has the potential to question the administration of the committee itself and by extension the farcical end result. This by the way includes Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Solidarity/PBP, Independents and Senators.
Original query from Michael Mooney
Dear Mr O’Ceidigh,
I am aware that you were appointed independent Chairman of the Oireachtas Comittee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water in Ireland which is now disbanded. I followed this with great interest but it ended with some disillusionment.
I understood that it would be an independent chairman’s responsibility to record and report on all significant contributions to the committee and as a result of this I have a query.
During the meetings which were both held in private and public you obtained input from senior counsels. These were Matthias Kelly and Conleth Bradley who are regarded as experts in European Environmental Law. You permitted their input, as you believed or stated that it would be of the ‘utmost importance’ following some objection from Colm Brophy TD. These people were invited by Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail to contribute their legal opinion on Ireland’s compliance with the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD). Their contribution extended over at least one full session around mid-February 2017. In their legal opinion, they confirmed that Ireland was in compliance due to a practice already established of paying for water. This established practice forms an exemption which leaves Ireland in compliance with the EU WFD via Section 9, item 4 or as commonly referred to Exemption 9.4. This is a significant piece of information and my query is;
“Why was this omitted from the confidential draft report that you furnished?
I look forward to an urgent reply on this matter. Please confirm receipt of this upon arrival and advise if you can reply within 7 days and maximum 14 days.
First letter from Oireachtas secretary
25 August, 2017
Dear Mr Mooney,
I refer to your recent message to Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh regarding the Report of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services.
In the course of its deliberations, the Joint Committee considered extensive information from a large number of stakeholders (received both in writing and in oral evidence at meetings), regarding a range of matters relating to its brief. Transcripts of the meetings of the Joint Committee along with a large amount of other information are available on the webpage of the Joint Committee at the website of the Houses of the Oireachtas (www.oireachtas.ie).
It was not the objective of the Report of the Joint Committee to re-produce all of the information that was considered. The content of the Report, which is mainly comprised of the Joint Committee’s recommendations, was agreed in detail by the Members over a number of meetings and approved by them in the normal manner.
The Joint Committee ceased to exist following the conclusion of its work at its final meeting on 11 April of this year, and the subsequent submission of its Report.
Second letter from Oireachtas secretary
28 August, 2017
Dear Mr Mooney,
Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services
I refer to your message to Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh dated 20 August regarding the above matter, to my reply of 25 August, and to your subsequent message.
I replied to your message to Senator Ó Céidigh as the person who was the Clerk to the Joint Committee during its deliberations. This is consistent with normal practice.
Having considered both of your messages, Senator Ó Céidigh does not wish to add anything to my earlier reply.
Please contact me if you have any further queries regarding this matter.
Tom Sheridan, Clerk