Last weekend the Taoiseach said that the Government and Irish Water would provide greater clarity on charges for the public after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. On Monday, there was an apology from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, and Mr. Tierney of Irish Water accepted that mistakes had been made. On Tuesday, the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, got stuck in and took the entire press pack to a sewage treatment plant in Ringsend, a fitting backdrop for where the Government has landed itself on this issue. He agreed that the legislation establishing Irish Water was rushed and that it was wrong not to debate it in the House. He pointedly reminded us that he was not a member of the Cabinet when the decision was taken. The Tánaiste clearly was a member, as was the Taoiseach.
Also on Tuesday, we were given confirmation by the Tánaiste that a family of two adults and two adult children could expect to pay water charges of no more than €200 per year. At last it appeared that a breakthrough was emerging regarding what citizens would pay for water. However, that was thrown on its head yesterday when the Taoiseach told the House, while the Tánaiste was holding a press conference elsewhere, that when the Tánaiste was speaking in the House in her capacity as Minister for Social Protection she was in fact expressing a personal opinion. It is amazing that the Taoiseach would say that the Tánaiste, when answering questions in the House as Minister, can somehow take off the cloak of Tánaiste and the heaviness of the office of Minister for Social Protection and speak in a personal capacity. What is really mind-boggling, however, is that the Government, in developing the concept of Irish Water, which was promised by Fine Gael in 2009 and accepted by this Government in 2011, has effectively ignored the concerns raised in this House and the concerns of the citizens of Ireland and has rammed it down people's throats. Since September, the Government has been asking people to fill out forms and provide their PPS numbers, which the Tánaiste sneakily slotted in as an amendment in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, but as we approach the middle of November nobody can confirm what people will pay for water, notwithstanding that charging commenced on 1 October.