Clare County Council last night passed a motion calling for water charges to be suspended in Clare – with five Fine Gael councillors supporting the motion.
In a bizarre turn of event, the only councillors to vote against the proposal were Sinn Fein’s Mike McKee and Independent Gerry Flynn, both of whom are vocally anti-Irish Water.
The Shannon councillors voted against the suspending of water charges on the grounds that it does not go far enough.
The meeting was conducted in front of a large public gallery made up of members of the Clare Says No To Water Charges group. The meeting threatened to boil over on a number of occasions with members of Fine Gael arguing that the motion be put off to a subsequent meeting. Councillors instead voted to extend the meeting late into the evening to allow for the matter to be discussed.
The motion to suspend water charges was put forward jointly by Clare Colleran Molloy (FF), Michael Begley (IND), Bill Chambers (FF) and Pat Hayes (FF).
The Fine Gael councillors who supported the motion were Bill Slattery, Johnny Flynn, Gabriel Keating, Pat Burke and Paul Murphy.
The motion was welcomed by Clare Says No To Water Charges – who had also picketed outside the council offices before the meeting.
“We’re very happy. It’s getting to the stage now that it [abolishing water charges] just looks like common sense,” said Paul Whitmore of the group.
The council also heard a number of connected motions calling for responsibility for water to revert to the council and for Irish Water to be called before Clare County Council.
“These [protesters] are moderate people that have had enough. They are at their wits end to keep the bills paid and Irish water has been. There is a sense that big brother government needs to be brought to heel,” said Cllr Colleran Molloy.
“Let us send a clear message here on behalf of Clare County Council to suspend all water charges until an open and honest debate takes place.”
Speaking ahead of the vote Cllr McKee (SF) said he could not vote for the suspension of water charges.
“As much as I’d like to support this motion I cannot do so, because the word suspend means to put to off to another date and I cannot support that,” he said.
For more from yesterday’s council meeting, including details of a 10 per cent rates cut for Clare businesses, see today’s Clare People.