European Commission's response on water charges 'deliberately vague' - MEP Lynn Boylan

A response from the Commission has suggested that Ireland cannot abolish charges

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Lynn Boylan. Image: RollingNews.ie

An Irish MEP says the European Commission's response to a parliamentary question on water charges is 'deliberately vague'.

Sinn Féin's Lynn Boylan submitted a priority question to the Commission seven weeks ago, asking if flexibility previously afforded to Ireland on water charges still applies.

In a response issued today, the Commission said: "If the established practice is to have a system in place implementing the recovery of the costs of water services, in accordance with the polluter pays principle, the Commission considers that the flexibility afforded to Member States [...] would not apply".

It has been suggested that the response indicates that Ireland cannot breach the EU's Water Framework Directive and abolish charges.

However, MEP Boylan claims the statement is "deliberately vague to cover the fact that they know that Ireland can abolish Irish Water if it so wishes - and they don't want to put that in black and white".

Speaking to Newstalk.com, she explained: "The response is based on what they call established practices. I don't think that anybody in their right mind would say that the established practice in Ireland is Irish Water. Not with the compliance level we have, not with the election results, not with the mass mobilisation on the streets - the established practice in Ireland is paying for water through general taxation".

She suggested that the EU can only assess the Irish compliance with the directive when the Government submits a river basin management plan - which is not expected to be ready for submission until 2017.

"It is completely in the gift of the Irish Government to respect the democratic wishes of the Irish people, and to say that the established practice in Ireland is to pay through general taxation," MEP Boylan added.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty has claimed that Irish Water's estimate that it would cost around €100 million to abolish the utility was 'plucked from the air'.