Tuesday 17 October 2017

Kenny and Martin meet again as deadlock over Irish Water beckons another election

Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin met in Dublin for crunch government talks earlier today aimed at ending the deadlock around Irish Water.

Talks between the two parties’ negotiating teams broke down on Friday over water and other issues around housing, hospital waiting lists, childcare and rural affairs.

It is expected there will be ongoing contact between the negotiating teams throughout the weekend.

Fianna Fáil is demanding that water charges are suspended in return for supporting a Fine Gael led minority government.

One senior Fianna Fáil figure insisted if Fine Gael do not suspend water charges there will be another election.

However, Fine Gael is insisting that charges need to remain in place but are willing to suspend them while new waivers and allowance are introduced.

Fianna Fail is also calling for an independent commission to be established to review every aspect of Irish Water including water quality, infrastructure and charges.

Fianna Fáil is willing to accept the referring of the issue of water charges to a new commission in return for their suspension for the duration of the Dail.

Party sources say that the talks hinge on suspension of charges and that if Fine Gael do not consent to this, another election is imminent.

Fianna Fáil became extremely frustrated with what is described as Fine Gael's "obsession" with advice from departments like Finance.

"It's 50:50 for another election right now," said one source close to the talks.

Fianna Fáil also believe if an election is fought on the issue is water, the party will fare well.

"We will pick up seats in Dublin - we may lost a few here and there however."

During the discussions on water, Fianna Fáil negotiators accused Fine Gael of presenting false figures in relation to households who will save money.

Fine Gael claimed that 40pc of households would not pay after a series of allowances and waivers were brought in.

But Fianna Fáil have said their presentation is false as it is based on the number of metered households and not the total number of properties.

"There's still hundreds of thousands of meters to put in place but this appeared to go over Fine Gael's head."

According to Fianna Fáil, household with an annual income of €60,000 would lose the conservation grant and be told that to secure a reduced bill, they must conserve more.

"It's all over the place, a three card trick. They need to put their hands up and say "we got it wrong"."

There were also clashes at Trinity College over rent supplement.

Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen is believed to have argued strongly for rent supplement to be increased.

He wants it introduced as a short term measure - in order to reflect the "abnormal housing market" -  that can be reviewed after six months.

But Fine Gael insisted that advice from officials suggests that such a move could see landlords jack up rents. Fianna Fáil is willing to accept the referring of the issue of water charges to a new commission in return for their suspension for the duration of the Dail.

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