Opposition claim "stitch up" on water charges by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil

The Dáil chamber was suspended this afternoon after opposition TDs accused the government of pulling a "really, really sly one" over the establishment of a new committee on water charges

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Tap water being poured from a tap in to a glass | Image: Tim Goode / EMPICS Entertainment

Updated 14:45

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are being accused of "a stitch up" on water charges.

The Dáil has voted to set up a special Oireachtas committee to decide how to finance Ireland’s water infrastructure.

The 20 member committee will include nine members from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - an arrangement the parties agreed as part of their government deal.

The committee will next week receive the report of an Expert Group on the matter before putting forward a final recommendation for TDs to vote on.

Ninety-three TDs voted in favour of the move with 38 against.

The committee is expected to make a recommendation on the future of water charges no later than the end of March 2017.

The Dáil was suspended for ten minutes this afternoon after opposition TD’s voiced their anger over how the committee was established.

The row centred around the decision to name Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh as chair of the committee - rather than following the usual procedure, which would allow the group to vote in its own chairperson after its establishment.

Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty accused the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) / People Before Profit (PPP) of not understanding Oireachtas procedure after they accused her of “pulling a sly one” on the issue.

The Dáil had to be suspended after she demanded the group withdraw the comments.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Planning & Local Government, Eoin Ó Broin accused the government of a “stitch up” over Senator Ó Céidigh’s appointment - and the in-built majority the two main parties will now hold in the committee.

"Ministers do not have the right to handpick chairpersons for Dáil or Oireachtas committees - and yet that is exactly what is happening,” he said.

"Of course, this is just the latest instalment of the great Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael stitch up on water charges.

Opposition TD’s also claimed they had not been given sufficient notice of the motion to establish the committee - although the government said it had engaged in extensive negotiations with all parties over the past week.

Sinn Féin tabled a motion that would have allowed the new committee to pick its own chairperson, however it was defeated by the government with the support of Fianna Fáil.