Eamon Ryan, Bertie Ahern and Nora Owen discuss the future of Irish Water

The organisation hangs in the balance as Fianna Fáil call for the abolition of water charges

Eamon Ryan, Bertie Ahern and Nora Owen discuss the future of Irish Water

A GMC|Sierra worker during water meter installations in Glasnevin, Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless / PA Archive/PA Images

As it has for years, the contentious issue of Irish Water continues to be a top concern for political parties.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for the Environment and Local Government Barry Cowen said the party would insist on the dismantling of water charges before entering an agreement with Fine Gael, though leader Micheál Martin later rolled back, saying there were no red line issues for Fianna Fáil as of yet.

Today's Sunday Show panel discussed the topic, with former Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and former Fine Gael Justice Minister Nora Owen all giving their opinions.

Though Ahern could not see a future in returning responsibility to local authorities, he did criticise the outgoing government for "ramming" the legislation that established Irish Water through the Dáil, saying a rigorous debate would have avoided many of the problems that have dogged it since.

Host Shane Coleman raised the issue of the estimated 60% of irish people who have paid their water charges, and feel betrayed for paying into Irish Water.

"I believe people have gone in and canceled their direct debits," said Owen. "The reality is that we need a single authority; [the local authority system] wasn't working," she added.

She pointed out the continuing problem of raw sewerage directly entering our water system. "We're under 80 charges from the EU for places where raw sewerage is going into our rivers, our lakes and our seas," she said.

Ryan agreed with the need for a "significant increase in investment." He said: "a part of that is having a charge on the wasteful use of water."

He said he doesn't "hear sense" from Fianna Fáil on the issue as it would deprive the government of the necessary funds to improve infrastructure. 

Listen to the full panel discussion below: