A proposed bill on water abstraction will give the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage “a whip hand over farmers”, a TD has said.

Laois-Offaly TD Carol Nolan said that the unwillingness of Minister Darragh O’Brien to adopt a number of amendments to the Water Environment (Abstractions and Associated Impoundments) Bill 2022 will result in “unworkable and counterproductive legislation being introduced”.

Nolan was speaking during a D√°il debate on the bill, where she also criticised what she called the “rushed nature” of the bill, and “the lack of meaningful dialogue with farmers and farmer representative bodies”.

The bill seeks to transpose elements of the EU water directive into Irish law, and, among other things, to put in place a system of controls for the abstraction of freshwater, surface and groundwater.

“The IFA [Irish Farmers’ Association] has offered a number of serious, credible and proportionate amendments to this bill, but they have all been dismissed,” Nolan said.

She added: “This speaks to a worrying lack of interest in the actual reality of farm operations, as opposed to what that should look like on paper.”

According to Nolan, there are some provisions in the bill which may grant “excessive powers” to the minister, particularly in regard to issuing licences to abstract water.

Nolan said she agrees with the IFA assessment that this aspect of the bill “creates massive levels of uncertainty for farmers” and that it needs to be addressed urgently.

“Failure to amend this aspect of the bill creates the impression that the minister is more concerned with maintaining the whip hand over farmers than actively engaging with them as stakeholders that know far better than he does what it will take to make this bill work,” the independent TD commented.

She added: “In the wider sense, by not accepting the IFA amendments, the minister, and indeed government, appear to agree with the perception that farmers are somehow not doing their part when it comes to protecting freshwater supply and surface and groundwater, and that they must be allowed no flexibility in these matters.”

Nolan called on Minister O’Brien to pause the legislation, and to agree to engage with farmers and their representatives.

She said that the bill should be amended “so that it does not become one more piece of disproportionately burdensome legislation unmoored from the reality of farm life”.