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Thursday 8 December 2016

Fianna Fáil TD John Curran defends party's stance on water charges

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 28/04/2016 | 12:31

Fianna Fail TD John Curran
Fianna Fail TD John Curran

Fianna Fáil TD John Curran has defended his party’s stance on Irish Water, and said their election promise to abolish the utility applied only if his party were in government.

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“(The manifesto) said we would abolish Irish Water and the charges if in government. The situation is somewhat different, we’re not in government,” he said on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

“We’re in opposition, but we have advanced the issues significantly.”

Earlier this week, an agreement was reached to suspend water charges for nine months.

However, Mr Curran confirmed that despite the suspension, people will “absolutely” have to pay for the utility through some mechanism, even if Irish Water is abolished.

“Absolutely (we will have to pay), as we do at the moment,” he said.

“Going forward it will be a vote for the Dail on whether water charges are ever to be reintroduced, that’s a separate issue.”

The Dublin Mid-West TD is also chairman of the Dáil’s all-party committee on housing and homelessness.

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Leo Varadkar. Photo: Caroline Quinn

When asked why Fianna Fail have focused their arguments on water charges rather than the homeless crisis, he said: “I think the reason for this was the necessity to deal with it up front.

“It was an issue that would dominate the next government and it required decision making at this stage.”

Read More: Q & A: Who will ultimately pick up the tab for the cost of political deal on suspension of water charges?

He added that the issue of housing is being dealt with on a committee level, as they prepare a set of recommendations to present to the Dáil.

“The committee has started its work this week, we will be meeting with other interested parties such as the Construction Industry Federation to try to identify the key components that are driving up costs,” he said.

Acting health minister Leo Varadkar also discussed the suspension of water charges this morning and criticised Fianna Fáil’s “ridiculous” position on Irish Water.

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke, he said the focus on the issue of water during government negotiations was “surreal”.

“The fact that they went to the wire and threatened an election, and threatened not to facilitate a new government on water, I just think is ridiculous,” he said.

“Of all the issues to pick, of all the issues to drive us to the brink of a general election, to threaten not to support a minority government.

Read More: Irish Water latest: Non-payers will not be pursued for water bills

“I really thought maybe they would say, 'We insist that Ireland must develop a national health service over the next five years, you need to find the €3bn to do it, or you need to drop your promises on the USC,' not at all.

“It was all down to water charges that cost €3 a week. It’s the wrong thing to do, it’s not in the public interest,” he added.

He also spoke about Fine Gael’s role in government talks, and said his party would continue to make the case in favour of Irish Water during the suspension.

“We wouldn’t give up on the principal of a national utility, we don’t think Irish Water should be broken up and everything sent back to 30-something local authorities.

“I don’t even believe deep down that Fianna Fáil even believes that that’s a good idea, even though that was their policy,” he said.

“It’s a real disappointment to me that Fianna Fáil wants us to go backwards on water,” he added.

IMO says it is a disgrace that our public health services were not the priority issue for the agreement on the formation of a new Government.

“Minister Varadkar has criticised Fianna Fail for not demanding a multi-billion investment programme for health…so will he demand it now himself to be included in the Agreement between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael,” Dr John Duddy said in a statement this evening.

“Minister Varadkar shouldn’t wait for Fianna Fail to force his hand on investment in health services.  If he believes this investment is necessary, and it clearly is, then he can prioritise it himself and ensure that it forms a key part of any Programme for Government.

“The current budget is simply insufficient even to maintain services at current levels.  We need a commitment to provide significant additional funds for the health services.  We need to commit now to urgent action to improve patient experiences and health outcomes.”

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