Group claims water commission is "a Trojan Horse" for future charges

Simon Coveney says water meter installation should continue

Group claims water commission is "a Trojan Horse" for future charges

Paul Murphy at the Hilton Hotel in Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

One group claim the recently published expert commission on water services is "a trick" to leave the door open for water charges.

A major report into Ireland's water payment options has recommended that most families will not face charges for their supply.

An expert group found that the "normal domestic and personal needs" of most citizens should be be provided free - and users should only pay for "excessive or wasteful use".

"What is proposed here does not amount to the provision of a ‘free allowance’ of water nor does it involve additional direct subsidies by the State to the water utility," the report states.

"Rather, the water utility will provide sufficient water to all citizens to cover their domestic and personal needs, and the costs of providing that water will be recovered from the State, which will be a customer of Irish Water, based on tariffs approved by [the Commission for Energy Regulation]."

It also says a special Oireachtas committee should be set up to look at whether a referendum should be held to stop Irish Water being sold.

Education Minister Richard Bruton says the Government will consider the idea of a referendum.

But he says all parties need to be prepared to reach a compromise when it comes to the issue of water charges.

"We need to sit down in a mature way and deliberate over the evidence - and that's what I look forward to do.

"And I think that's what the nature of democracy (is).

"It isn't those who shout loudest and protest who will determine, it is the elected people on a balanced basis", he told the Dáil.

'No financial sense'

While the AAA-PBP group claim the commission is "a trick" to leave the door open for future charges.

TD Paul Murphy told a press conference: "The report by the expert commission is a political fudge to allow Fine Gael to claim water charges are still in place and for Fianna Fail to say that water charges are gone.

"The report acts as a Trojan Horse to allow for the future re-introduction of water charges.

"The idea of 'excessive usage' and a free allowance keeps the principle of paying for water in place."

"It makes no financial sense to keep a charging regime in place if it is only for a tiny minority of people unless they intend to charge a broader layer of people in future through reducing the allowance and increasing charges as happened with the bin charges."

"The water metering programme should now be halted immediately. It has been a waste of half a billion which could have been invested in fixing pipes or locating leaks on a district level."

Water meters to continue?

The minister with responsibility for the water scheme says he believes meter installation around the country should continue. Around €500m has been spent on the project so far.

Minister Simon Coveney told Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show any charge for water means meters are necessary.

"If you're going to have a charge for excessive usage or wastage of water, well then you have to ensure that there are meters to actually measure how much households are using.

"We have 880,000 meters or so in place, and the investment programme that's planned for Irish Water between now and 2021 - which is about €5.5bn or so - we need to progress with that investment".

'Super tax'

While Independent TD Thomas Pringle has said Fianna Fail's position on the charge amounts to a "double-cross".

"The flip-flopping of Fianna Fáil’s position on water charges has changed time and time again.

"Originally it was all about setting up the foundation for water charges while they were in Government, then onto outright opposition to water charges in an attempt to absorb the work of communities who protested against water charges in a show of solidarity of the people.

"What they are proposing now with the merging of property and water taxes is nothing short of a 'Super Tax' in an effort to achieve their original goal of direct water charges.

"Once again we see Fianna Fáil double-crossing the people".

Mr Pringle says he will be pushing for water to be paid through general taxation.