Taoiseach refuses to back down on water

Fine Gael will not abolish water charges entirely claiming it would result in large fines imposed on Ireland by Europe

The Taoiseach has again insisted the government will not facilitate any new system of water charges which is contrary to EU law.

The Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has said he cannot abolish water charges in their entirety - claiming it would result in large fines imposed on Ireland by Europe.

Yesterday the committee failed to reach an agreement on a total abolition of charges – with a new draft of the final report set for debate next Tuesday.

Fianna Fáil’s water spokesperson Barry Cowen has warned that if Minister Coveney refuses to legislate based on the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Water – the minority government could collapse.

Speaking today, Enda Kenny refused to back down on Fine Gael's refusal to legislate for any system which it believes could result in EU fines.

The party will only support the recommendations if they include a charge for excessive use – thus side-stepping the EU regulations.

The party is due to make its own submission to the committee tomorrow.

“That committee has not finished its work,” said Mr Kenny. “It was given a paper by the chairman.”

“I would expect them to deliberate on that and continue their work until such time as they bring forward their views and their recommendations to the Oireachtas and I don’t want to go beyond that at this stage.”

“Clearly you are not going to be implementing something that is illegal.”

This morning, Joe McHugh, Minister of State for the Diaspora and Overseas Development Aid suggested there was still scope for negotiations between the two main parties.

Warning that the committee needs to be given a chance to complete its work, Mr McHugh said there is an appetite within Fine Gael to reach a solution – and avoid another election.

“There is always the potential in the minority situation that we are in,” he said. “We have a confidence and supply with Fianna Fáil.”

“I am sure there are people within Fianna Fáil who I speak to privately as well that can find a solution with this impasse.”

Meanwhile it has emerged that a small number of households are still claiming the €100 water conservation grant – despite the fact it was scrapped a year ago when water charges were suspended.

The state spent €89m covering the grant – which was introduced to help households pay their water bills and cover water conservation measures.

The Public Accounts Committee has been told this morning that a small number of households are still claiming the one-off grant - having not received it in 2015.