Anti-water charge advocate disrupts City Hall meeting

Meeting adjourned as pact is accused of ‘turning its back’ on angry public

City and County Mayor James Tobin, who adjourned last Thursday’s monthly meeting of the local authority at City Hall.

City and County Mayor James Tobin, who adjourned last Thursday’s monthly meeting of the local authority at City Hall.

The monthly meeting of Waterford City and County Council was adjourned by Mayor James Tobin on Thursday last following a disruption caused by an anti-water charge campaigner from the public gallery at City Hall.
This followed the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil/Labour pact’s amending of a motion initially put forward by Sinn Féin Councillor Declan Clune, the revised version of which the initial proposer labelled as “watered down and meaningless”.
In his motion, Cllr Clune had called on the Government to reverse the water charge, which he called “and unfair and unjust double charge being forced on already struggling households”. He also suggested an end to the roll-out of metering and to “redirect the €539 million loan finance from the National Pension Reserve Fund towards fixing the massive leakage problems and interruption to supply”. Cllr Clune called on the coalition to recognise that “Irish Water is not fit for purpose since it is unaccountable to the Minister and therefore to the Oireachtas and citizens of this State,” and requested that the company be prevented from “any further excessive spending of taxpayer’s money”.
Finally, Cllr Clune told colleagues that he hoped the Government would “listen to the widespread public anger that exists towards this Government and Irish Water by the Irish people, who are now rightly organising and mobilising in protest and opposition to these water charges”.
With his motion, perhaps unsurprisingly winning support from non-pact members, it was equally unsurprising that the pact featuring the two Government parties, along with Fianna Fáil, tabled an amended version of Cllr Clune’s motion.
Via Cllrs Damien Geoghegan and John Cummins, the pact instead called for a comprehensive review of Irish Water on all fronts, while cognisant that the Government’s long-awaited revised pricing plan was, as of Thursday last, just under a week away from delivery.
“If this motion had been brought before next month’s meeting, by which time we expect to have more, if not all the information publicly disclosed about charges, then I think we as a Council would have been in a better position when it came to deliberating on Councillor Clune’s original motion,” said Fianna Fáil’s Adam Wyse.
“And given the disruption that led to the meeting’s adjournment, there was no real opportunity for us to adequately state why we felt that we couldn’t pass the original motion given that all the information we needed had not been made available by the Government at that point.”
Claiming that Irish Water has proven an “utter disaster” since its foundation, Cllr Wyse reminded this newspaper that “it was still within Fine Gael’s gift to abolish” the entity.
Speaking about the adjournment, Mayor James Tobin told WLRfm’s Sinead Ahearne: “I was very disappointed because there was another very important motion put down by Councillor (Pat) Fitzgerald, which I’d hope we’d have gotten to. I don’t like meetings being disrupted like that but I would have to safely say that none of the elected members were the cause of this meeting being abandoned; it was someone in the gallery and I would have to compliment the elected members for the way they behaved.”
A frustrated Cllr Clune said afterwards: “My motion was in response to the thousands of people who took to the streets of Waterford city, Portlaw and Dungarvan in the pouring rain…but Fine Gael proposed a watered-down version which in reality is quite meaningless and they were supported by their pact colleagues in Fianna Fáil, so in my view, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have turned their backs on the people of Waterford, which is absolutely disgraceful.
“Presumably they were all tucked up in front of their fires on November 1st while men, women and children braved the driving rain and gusty winds to come out and protest at this disastrous Irish Water quango, which is clearly not fit for purpose.”
For the record, Cllr Clune’s original motion won support on Thursday last from Cllrs Breda Brennan, Pat Fitzgerald, Siobhan Whelan, John Hearne, Jim Griffin, Joe Conway, Davy Daniels, Blaise Hannigan, Cha O’Neill and Sean Reinhardt.

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