Officials from the troika that bailed Ireland out of its economic recession have been told to “butt out” of local Irish political debate.
The rebuke was delivered at a tense meeting of visiting troika inspectors and Irish administrators in the Department of Finance during a discussion of the controversial water charges to be introduced in the New Year.
The complaint was made after troika inspectors from Brussels were summoned at short notice at 9 a.m. on November 21 to the department.
The Irish Times reported the meeting was held two days after the government suspended water meter charges in favor of a lower flat rate in the controversial new tax.
Irish ministers were furious when the European Commission was reported to have said that the revised water scheme could jeopardize the Fine Gael/Labor coalition’s fiscal plan.
During the meeting in the Department of Finance a high-level commission inspector told a senior Department of Public Expenditure figure he was concerned about the “attitude” adopted on the Irish side of the table. His concern was immediately and forcefully dismissed.
With the government under pressure to defuse prolonged controversy over water, The Irish Times reported that information from both sides of the discussion said the European officials were essentially told to “butt out” of local political debate.
Two days after this meeting, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan relayed his concerns in a letter to EU economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici.
A government source said the coalition remained confident that the new company established to run a water service, Irish Water, would be “financially strong enough” to significantly increase investment to the levels needed to fix the broken water network.
There has been widespread protests against the water charges and another is planned for Dublin on Wednesday, December 10.
Meanwhile, a group of west of Ireland musicians have received tens of thousand of hits on a YouTube video of their ballad “No Privatization, Irish Water, Irish Nation.”
The catchy tune targets the government with lyrics such as “Enda Kenny – not a penny – we won’t pay at all because the corruption of your policies is worse than Fianna Fail.”
The video, recorded live in the kitchen of traditional music venue Campbell’s Tavern, near Headford in Co. Galway, features many well-known figures from the local trad music scene.
One of the musicians, Donal Gibbons, said, “The message is that we want to see a referendum on privatization of Irish water.”