"It is the established practice and they're here to say" - Alan Kelly on water charges

Sinn Féin's Lynn Boylan has argued that the established practice in Ireland is paying for water through general taxation

alan, kelly, lynn, boylan, water, charges, labour, sinn fein, european commission

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Labour's Alan Kelly has claimed that water charges are 'here to say', and the country faces 'massive fines' from Europe if Ireland abolishes the charges.

It comes after Sinn Féin's Lynn Boylan submitted a priority question to the European Commission, asking if flexibility previously afforded to Ireland on water charges still applies.

In a response issued yesterday, the Commission said: "If the established practice is to have a system in place implementing the recovery of the costs of water services, in accordance with the polluter pays principle, the Commission considers that the flexibility afforded to Member States [...] would not apply".

It has been suggested that the response indicates that Ireland cannot breach the EU's Water Framework Directive and abolish charges.

However, MEP Boylan claims the statement is "deliberately vague to cover the fact that they know that Ireland can abolish Irish Water if it so wishes - and they don't want to put that in black and white".

She added: "The established practice in Ireland is paying for water through general taxation".

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the former Environment Minister Alan Kelly argued that the statement from the Commission was clear.

"Ireland wrote in 2010 that we were bringing in water charges," Deputy Kelly said. "They have been implemented, it is the established practice, and they're here to say".

The Labour TD said that the choice for Ireland is either "affordable water charges" or "massive fines".

He suggested that parties who campaigned in the recent election with a promise of abolishing charges made the pledge on a 'false premise'. "Basically people who advocated in this direction as far as I'm concerned were simply not saying it as it is, and weren't being honest with the people," he added.

Discussing the suspension of water charges while the charging model is reviewed, Deputy Kelly said: "Fine Gael have been completely discredited on this - they're trying to have their cake and eat it. They're trying to play to an audience of their voters which actually believes in this [...] but then they're also trying to ensure that the position they find themselves in the Dáil can be maintained".

Explaining that Ireland 'has put themselves in this situation', the Tipperary TD observed: "We have to adhere to the directive, we have to adhere to the 'polluter pays' principle. In order to do that, you have to have a mechanism to charge for water.

"Anyone who is selling utopian, populist rhetoric that basically legally you can do whatever you want to do... [they] are going to find out pretty quickly pretty the European Commission are going to come down very hard on us".