Fianna Fáil defends water charges stance

The party's spokesperson on housing says it is not inconsistent to want to fine people for excessive usage and still oppose charges

Fianna Fáil defends water charges stance

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen | Photo:

Fianna Fáil has rejected claims that it is contradicting itself on water charges.

The party’s spokesperson for housing, Barry Cowen told Newstalk Breakfast it is not inconsistent to want to fine people for excessive usage and still oppose charges.

It has been reported this morning that people could face fines of up to €5,000 for wasting water under one of the proposals in front of the Oireachtas water committee.

A draft report under consideration suggests those who use too much water will be given a six month grace period to limit their consumption - or prove it is not their fault.

The proposed penalties would include up to three months in prison however the grace period could mean the penalties would generally be avoided.

The Minister for Social Protection Paschal Donohoe has accused Fianna Fáil of inconsistency in their position on the matter – something Deputy Cowen has today denied.

“First of all we are consistent with our election manifesto last year, with our submission to the expert commission and with our recommendations to the committee,” he said.

“In relation to those who wilfully abuse, we are not saying that they should get away scot-free and I don’t think there are many of them to be fair and in most cases it is actually leakage that is the issue.”

Deputy Cowen said Fianna Fáil does not want to see further funding spent on individual water meters and detecting excess usage adding that the party believes existing legislation can be used to combat excessive usage.

He said the differences in opinion between his own party and Fine Gael could lead to a new general election - if the government refuses to accept the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee.

“As I said all along it doesn’t have to but it may,” he said. “Ultimately it will be for the two leaders and the Parliamentary parties to make the final decision based on non-compliance with the agreement entered into by both parties.”