Saturday 10 December 2016

Row over water charges intensifies as issue could trigger fresh election

Niall O’Connor Political Correspondent

Published 24/04/2016 | 15:15

Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin after the 1916 Arbour Hill Commemoration ceremony and requiem mass REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin after the 1916 Arbour Hill Commemoration ceremony and requiem mass REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

The row between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over water charges has intensified today as figures in both parties concede the issue could easily trigger a fresh election.

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Senior Fianna Fáil figures took to airwaves to warn Fine Gael that they will not budge on their demand to scrap charges.

But Fine Gael ministers hit back and accused Fianna Fáil of being unwilling to compromise fairly on the issue.

The impasse on water has now brought the government talks to their most critical point as both parties prepare for a snap election.

Speaking on RTÉ’s ‘The Week in Politics’ programme, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan described water as the “most serious stumbling block” between the two parties.

“I don’t believe the answer to that is the scrapping of water charges,” he said.

But Fianna Fáil’s Transport spokesperson Timmy Dooley said Irish Water has lost the confidence of the public.

“Our policy issue is very clear, suspend water charges and abolish Irish Water, up until a time the water infrastructure is brought up to an acceptable standard,” Mr Dooley told the same programme.

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

The issue of water was also subjected to robust exchanges between Acting Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo/Leitirm Marc MacSharry.

Mr MacSharry said his party is not willing to budge whatsoever on its pledge to scrap charges.

“The facts are there is no mandate for water charges, they need to go,” he told ‘RTE’s ‘This Week’ programme.

“If there isn’t compromise on this, the reality is it will have to be left to the will of Dáil Eireann. We will not be voting against our own policy,” he added.

Mr Bruton told the programme that Mr MacSharry’s language is unhelpful.

“I was listening to Mark and him saying ‘Fine Gael must do this or must do that’. I don’t think that's the language of compromise,” Mr Bruton said.

“Of course there is middle ground that can be negotiated across the charging regime.,” he added.

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