Joe O'Toole to step down as head commissioner on water charges

"Despite the support of Minister Coveney this is a situation I am not prepared to countenance..."

paul, murphy, commission, water, charges

Former senator and trade union leader Joe O'Toole. Image: RollingNews.ie

Joe O'Toole has stepped down as head commissioner on water charges this afternoon.

The newly appointed chair of the Commission has been under fire after suggesting the job was a political exercise and was a sweetener to make the medication of water charges easier to swallow.

His resignation was signaled by both Minister Simon Coveney and Taoiseach Enda Kenny earlier this afternoon. 

His full statement was released as follows:

"It had been my firm intention to remain as Chair of the Expert Commission on Water. I was looking forward to progressing the important work of the Commission and proving my critics wrong.

That was until Minister Coveney informed me that the main opposition party would not cooperate with Government on this and related issues for as long as I remained in the Chair. Effectively then for me to remain in situ would result in the Government being spancilled in implementing policy and enacting legislation.

Despite the support of Minister Coveney this is a situation I am not prepared to countenance and therefore I am withdrawing from the position of Chair.
Walking away is disappointing but it is the right thing to do in these circumstances. There are enough problems facing the Government without me adding to them.

I am comfortable with the fact that I put my views honestly and transparently on the record. It is regrettable that my straight-talking has caused difficulties for others but in that regard I am unlikely to change anytime soon.

I thank Minister Coveney for his confidence in me and in wishing the Commission and my successor every success I hope that they will receive the kind of support they deserve.

I still stand ready to do the State some service whenever the opportunity arises but in the meantime ponder the truth of the old adage that a week is a long time in politics."

Earlier today, Stephen Donnelly of the Social Democrats says he believes Joe O'Toole position is ‘completely untenable’.

Talking to Newstalk Lunchtime, the Wicklow TD said: "He will have no choice but to step back. He should step back straight away.

"The public need to be absolutely confident that whoever is in the chair is going in there and saying 'I accept that there are very strongly held views and very different opinions, and we the commission will examine all of those credibly."

Members of the Anti-Austerity Alliance and Fianna Fail also spoke publicly this week about O'Toole's impending exit.