Legal team: Changes made to water charges report are legal

The party has been up in arms after repeatedly losing votes on the final draft report

Legal team: Changes made to water charges report are legal

Staff at Irish Water install water meters in the Bramblefields Estate in Dublin 15 in 2013 | Image: RollingNews.ie

Legal advice to the water committee is that changes made to the report are legal.

The committee has been told that the changes which were not supported by Fine Gael can be dealt with in legislation to make sure it complies with the EU water services directive.

The party has been up in arms after repeatedly losing votes on the final draft report of the committee again today.

This saw the words 'excessive usage' removed and replaced with 'willful/abusive' and 'levies' replaced with 'penalties'.

The Fine Gael members of the committee felt these would make the final report non-compliant, and accused Fianna Fáil of siding with Sinn Féin to undermine what had already been agreed.

This evening, legal advice to the committee says the changes are legal and that the issues raised can be dealt with in legislation.

Response

"It is Fine Gael's view that what was voted through in the Water Committee today falls well short of our obligations under the Water Framework Directive and puts Ireland on a collision course with the European Commission," the party said in a statement.

"What has been voted through today is not what Fine Gael agreed to last week with other parties in the Committee [...] if implemented,  [it] will leave Irish people open to tens of millions of fines under EU laws and is contrary to the previous advice of the Attorney General to Government in relation to this.

"We have clear and binding legal obligations under EU legislation that this committee simply cannot ignore. If we do not meet them we will pay a heavy price as a country," the statement concluded.

Speaking tonight outside Leinster House, Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Water Eoin Ó Broin has described the Oireachtas Water Committee report as “a great victory for Right2Water movement and the hundreds of thousands of people who campaigned against this unjust charge”.

The Dublin Mid-West TD said: “As the report stands, water charges are gone, charges for excessive use of water are gone, the metering programme is over, meters on new builds are gone.

“The report also includes a clear commitment to hold referendum enshrining the public ownership of water and water services in the Constitution. The report also has a range of measures to promote conservation and reduce leaks in the public water system."

He called on Minister Simon Coveney to "stand by his word" and legislate on the basis of the Committee report. 

"A definite important victory"

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said today represented "an important step towards a victory for the anti-water charges movement" but that the fight is not yet over.

"The report as a whole should be voted on tomorrow. Then it is over to Minister Coveney. Anything less than the full implementation of the recommendations of the committee would represent not only a betrayal of the wishes of the majority of people, but also of the agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail," he said