A row has broken out between two of Limerick City and County Council’s left-wing parties over the issue of the water charges.
As the two parties go head to head in by-elections on Friday, Sinn Fein and the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) have traded barbs locally, with city east councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh claiming the AAA “abandoned its supporters” after the battle over the household charge.
It was Cllr Ó Ceallaigh who spoke out first this week, when he called on the AAA to withdraw comments made in literature on Sinn Fein, and its stance on water charges.
He said the AAA has claimed that Sinn Fein has not committed to scrap the water tax if in government.
“This is a completely false claim, as we have been very clear and consistent in our opposition to this tax. Our commitment to scrap this tax is clear to all – which makes the AAA’s comments the more disappointing,” he said.
However, the AAA has refused to back down, and instead went on the attack, issuing a statement quoting all three of its council members.
Cllr Paul Keller indicated that Sinn Fein were performing a U-turn, referring to a comment made by finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty on RTE “that water charges were not a red line issue” for entering government.
“Now, having experienced the massive opposition that exists to water charges, and in particular the pressure exerted by the AAA campaign in the Dublin South West by-election, they have announced a new position. They are now saying the scrapping of water charges is a precondition of them entering government,” Cllr Keller said.
But Cllr Ó Ceallaigh said it is the AAA which is being selective of its history.
“Cian Prendiville called for people to boycott the household charge of €100, once they failed and the charge was implemented, they abandoned their supporters who were left with an even bigger bill of €200. I now fear they will do the same once the government force this unfair charge on the people of Ireland,” he said.
On the issue of water charges, he confirmed: “I respect people’s rights to pay this charge as it is up to each individual. We do not wish to call for a mass non-payment due to this respect for people’s choice”.
In response, Cllr Prendiville said: “Sinn Fein are adopting an approach similar to that of the Labour party when they were in opposition - being opposed to government policies, but not taking a fighting stance on them.”
AAA councillor John Loftus called on Sinn Fein to join with them and call for a mass non-payment of charges, saying: “That is the kind of unity and co-operation we want to see”.
He added: “If they are serious about opposition to water charges, they should use their 14 TDs and 159 councillors to give people confidence to join the boycott”.
Cllr Ó Ceallaigh appeared to open the door to this, saying: “I would like to see more co-operation across the left in opposition to the conservative coalition of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour in local government, but this will only be possible if the AAA stop targeting others on the left and realise who our real opposition is.”