Coveney sets out opposition to water charges report

The Housing Minister says the Oireachtas committee's recommendations will leave Ireland facing millions in EU fines

Coveney sets out opposition to water charges report

Simon Coveney speaking to the media outside the Custom House, Dublin | Image:

The Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has written to the Oireachtas committee on the future funding of water – arguing that their final report might leave Ireland facing major EU fines.

The minister’s letter comes after the committee delayed its final vote in order to get another legal opinion on its recommendations.

In its current from the report would scrap charges, refund existing bills, and end domestic meter installation.

It makes only passing mention of penalties or levies for wilfully wasting water.

In his letter, the minister has said out three reasons he believes the recommendations will put Ireland on a legal collision course with Europe – and leave us facing millions in fines from the EU.

Firstly he has argued that if only “wilful” wasters are punished – the state would be forced to prove the motives of each household.

He also argued that a flat-rate penalty leaves no incentive for water wasters to cut back on their usage.

Finally he said the lack of mandatory metering for new homes will make it harder to identifiy wasteful users – and put us on a collision course with Europe.

The minister insisted he is not trying to interfere with the work of the committee – but said he felt it necessary to put his concerns on the record.

The letter raises the possibility that the government will refuse to legislate based on the committee recommendations if they are not amended.

Yesterday, the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said the confidence and supply arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil does not oblige the Government to accept the committee’s report.

Failure to legislate would have serious consequences for the government – however Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on housing has said that the country does not want a new election based on the water issue.