Friday 20 January 2017

Government talks end without progress on water charges issue

Kevin Doyle, Group Political Editor

Published 25/04/2016 | 19:45

Taoiseach Enda Kenny laughs with Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail after the 1916 Arbour Hill Commemoration ceremony. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Taoiseach Enda Kenny laughs with Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail after the 1916 Arbour Hill Commemoration ceremony. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

TALKS between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on the formation of a government have ended for the night without a breakthrough.

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The two parties have failed to make any significant progress on the issue of water charges, with Fianna Fáil continuing to insist that charges are suspended for five years.

On his way out of the discussions Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen said there was a “50/50 chance” of a deal being reached.

“There hasn’t been a breakthrough but we are working toward trying to agree a breakthrough.

“We are very conscious that the country expects and wants a government. We want to make sure that it’s a real and meaningful one, that it’s stable and that it can govern.

“If there are outstanding issues that require agreement we have to remain true to those that gave us the opportunity to be in this position,” he said.

Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney described the exchanges between the two negotiating teams today as “frank”.

He said acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny had made a compromise offer on Irish Water at the weekend but Fianna Fáil failed to come back with a counter offer.

“Both parties will have to make compromises to accommodate each other. Fine Gael has done that over the past number of days and we hope we will get a response from Fianna Fail in the morning,” he said.

Mr Coveney refused to reveal the exact nature of that offer but it is understood that Fine Gael are prepared to suspend charges pending a new billing regime which would include waivers and a generous free allowance of water for every household.

"There are a relatively small umber of issues that are not resolved one of them is water. The Taoiseach tried to move it on at the weekend and we would like a response to that proposal from Fianna Fail and I hope we will get that in the morning,” he said.

Asked if any progress was made today, Mr Cowen told reporters: “We have yet to reach an agreement. If we’re still talking, there is still the potential, there is still the opportunity and we want to meet again tomorrow to see if we can explore that and reach an ultimate agreement.”

He added: “We’re seeking to facilitate Fine Gael in government, we’re not seeking to go in with them. We’re seeking for them to adhere to certain guidelines and principles that we want to reaffirm. It’s our job to do that and give some value to the votes people gave us.”

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