Sinn Fein councillor Seamus Morris has defended his decision to walk out of North Tipperary County Council’s budget meeting over handing water services to Irish Water.
The new agency took over water services on January 1 and Cllr Morris had asked that the council not pass its budget until councillors had received a copy of the 12-year Service Level Agreement between Irish Water and the council.
“I have always helped to negotiate and pass budgets as it is a part of my role as an elected member. It was with deep regret that I had to take this action and I didn’t take it lightly,” he said.
Cllr Morris said he was a “very reasonable elected member” who realised that a lot of negotiating had to take place, with everybody having the right to their viewpoint, but his viewpoint was ignored.
He said he made a request that before the budget was passed they have access to a copy of the agreement, which will see all the water and sewerage assets, including Lough Derg, being transferred to Irish Water without any compensation to the taxpayers of North Tipperary who paid for them.
“I also questioned the fact that there is no provision in the draft SLA for a local authority to exit the agreement within the 12-year period no matter how unfavourable its experience,” said Cllr Morris.
He said he was also aware that Lough Derg had been handed over to Irish Water without any accountability, yet when the Shannon Protection Alliance looked for a meeting with them they were told that they wouldn’t be contacting anyone “until they had a communications strategy in place.”
He also warned the council could be left with a pension legacy for retired water services staff or any water services staff who retire over the course of the SLA.
Cllr Morris was “absolutely shocked that the remaining councillors can sheepishly pass a budget that has transferred E6 of our Local Government Fund to Irish Water without seeing the contract. I am also very disappointed that the Mayor, Ger Darcy, ignored the wishes of me and my fellow councillors who were looking for accountability for this huge transfer of assets. I accused him of having a hierarchy of councillors that he wanted to listen to and I and the people I represent do not fall into that hierarchy as I am not represented on the Corporate Policy Group. I made a reasonable request but the Mayor preferred to guillotine through the budget without any proper accountability or transparency. He and his sheep will have to face the people of North Tipperary in May. I am proud of my actions and im sure the people I represent will support my efforts to get accountability.”