Water stand-off continues as deadline looms

Fianna Fáil could block the election of a new Fine Gael leader

Water stand-off continues as deadline looms

Thousands of people protest in Dublin city against the charging of water | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The stand-off continues between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on how to deal with an Oireachtas Committee's report on water charges.

The committee is due to sign off Tuesday on its recommendations to abolish charges and allow refunds for customers.

Over the weekend, Fianna Fáil threatened to block the election of a new Fine Gael leader if the Government does not bring in laws to scrap the charges.

Micheál Martin and Barry Cowen said the Government must respect the wishes of the Dáil as set out in its confidence and supply agreement.

Appendix 2 of the agreement reads: "The Government will facilitate the passage of legislation (whether it be a money bill or otherwise) for the implementation of the recommendations in relation to domestic water charging supported by the Oireachtas".

But Fine Gael is insisting that the findings of the committee represent a breach of European Union law.

"No point in us hanging around"

Mr Cowen sent an e-mail to members of the larger parliamentary party over the weekend setting out the position.

Speaking to Yates on Sunday, Deputy Cowen said the e-mail had "simply reiterated" what is already contained in the agreement with Fine Gael that is keeping the minority government in place.

He said the agreement obliges the Government to honour and to seek to bring about legislation to give effect to the wishes of the Dáil.

He said if the Government gave a "clear indication" that they will not legislate based on the committee's report - should it be accepted by a Dáil majority - then there would be "no point in us hanging around waiting for a leader to be elected by Fine Gael."

"They must oblige and honour the Dáil which represents the people in its efforts to bring about a credible solution to this problem so as to allow us to get it off the table and get the dead cat off the rug and deal with housing and deal with Brexit and deal with the issues in relation to regional development - because that is what we were elected to do," he said.

While thousands of people held a protest over water charges in Dublin city centre on Saturday.

Campaigners are calling for a referendum to guarantee that water services will never be privatised.

They also want the Government to implement the scrapping of water charges.

A number of politicians attended the march, including Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett.