"Slap in the face to voters" - Taoiseach criticised by Opposition TDs after comments on water charges

In an interview, Enda Kenny said people "are going to have to pay" water charges

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The Taoiseach has been criticised by Opposition politicians following comments he has made regarding water charges.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Enda Kenny said people "are going to have to pay".

The Taoiseach also suggested that the point at which water bills can be deducted from non-paying homeowners' wages could be reduced from the current €500 limit.

Responding to the remarks, AAA-PBP TD Paul Murphy said: "The Taoiseach conveniently omits in his remarks that to lower the threshold of €500 to permit the pursuit through the courts of water charges arrears while they are suspended requires the introduction of an amendment of the water charges legislation that will command a majority in the Dáil.

"The very fact that the charges will be imminently suspended is a reflection of the pressure the political establishment has come under on this issue," Deputy Murphy added.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin also criticised the remarks, describing them as "a slap in the face to voters. It ignores the clear democratic will of the people as expressed in February’s general election". 

The latest comments come after Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan earlier this week received a response from a European Commission to a question she submitted, asking if flexibility previously afforded to Ireland on water charges still applies.

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.

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

In a response to claims that ending charges could result in fines, Ms Boylan argued that "the Commission will only be able to make a conclusive response once the government has made a proposal. Any briefings or other assessments pending a ruling by the Commission are purely speculative and of no legal standing".

Deputy Murphy said: "The reality is that the EU commission can no more break a mass boycott than our government. It should also be borne in mind that when it suits this government they themselves are perfectly capable of resisting EU diktats such as we have seen in the Apple tax case".