Updated: 08/11/16 : 12:13:34
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Collins calls for TDs to be “held to account” over water referendum

Joan Collins TD has responded with surprise to John Halligan TD’s comments today opposing Wednesday’s bill on the public ownership of water despite being one of its original 39 signatories.

Responding to Halligan’s changing position Deputy Collins said, “this seems to me a prime example of why people in Ireland do not trust their politicians. Only months ago, after the general election, John Halligan was one of the 39 TDs to sign this bill supporting a referendum to keep our water in public hands.

“Today, with the benefit of a promotion to Minister of State, he has done a spectacular u-turn. It is highly frustrating not only to colleagues he campaigned with but I’m sure to many constituents who voted for him.”

Joan Collins TD said it was important that other independent TDs in government were “held to account” to prevent “similar displays of acrobatics” with regards to their publicly-expressed positions.

'Make a Killing'

Deputy Collins highlighted a speech given by Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath TD to the Irish Wheelchair Association conference in May of this year in which he said that public ownership of water was “a big thing” for him and added, “We do need a referendum to ensure that there’s no fat cats out there that just want to move in and make a killing.”

She also drew attention to a statement from Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD on December 19th, 2014, in which she said a non-binding plebiscite on the issue “hardly provided an adequate guarantee,” concluding that “Only a referendum could change that foundational constitutional guarantee to elected representatives that they can make law to privatise water.”

In the Dáil debate over the Water Services Bill on December 19th, 2014 Michael FitzMaurice TD said, “people in the back rooms should listen… I feel the Government should go the extra step and provide for a referendum,” adding that this was the only way to “do this right”. He echoed these sentiments again in Dáil debate in May of this year.

Scrutinised

Deputy Collins also said that Fianna Fáil’s previous position in favour of a referendum on public ownership of water should be scrutinised should their parliamentary meeting tomorrow resolve not to back the bill.

In November of 2014 the Seanad voted to accept a motion from Fianna Fáil which read, “That Seanad Éireann requests the Government to initiate legislation to provide for a constitutional referendum to enshrine the ownership of Irish Water to the Irish people in perpetuity.” The party also supported the Green Party’s 2014 campaign for the same.

In addition, nine Fianna Fáil TDs signed a "referendum pledge" brought by SIPTU in advance of the 2016 general election. These were Anne Rabbitte, Charlie McConalogue, Eamon O'Cuiv, Sean Haughey, Marc Mac Sharry, Willie O'Dea, Eamon Scanlon, Timmy Dooley, and Barry Cowen.

Finally, Joan Collins TD welcomed expressions of support from the Green Party and the Social Democrats for the bill today, adding to the TDs from Sinn Féin, AAA/PBP and eight independents. SIPTU also added their voice to call on TDs to pass the bill, joining the five unions affiliated with the Right2Water campaign.

Deputy Collins said that much rested on Fianna Fáil’s meeting tomorrow - with the bill’s passage guaranteed by their support.