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Thursday 8 December 2016

High-stakes bid to end water bills

■ FF's new law heightens tensions ■ FG says charges are red-line issue

Niall O'Connor, John Downing and Barry Lennon

Published 05/04/2016 | 02:30

As talks on government formation enter a critical phase, Fianna Fáil strategists say the legislation will be presented to Fine Gael within days. Photo: Mark Condren
As talks on government formation enter a critical phase, Fianna Fáil strategists say the legislation will be presented to Fine Gael within days. Photo: Mark Condren

Fianna Fáil is finalising a draft of its proposed law to scrap Irish Water in a move that will ramp up the tension with Fine Gael.

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As talks on government formation enter a critical phase, Fianna Fáil strategists say the legislation - suspending water charges and abolishing the utility - will be presented to acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny within days.

The divisive issue is set to be a major sticking point in negotiations between the two main parties as a senior Fine Gael figure last night insisted that water charges "are here to stay".

"Fianna Fáil need to accept this is a red-line issue for us," a minister said.

Responding to the remark, a senior Fianna Fáil figure suggested that the talks could collapse unless the parties could find common ground on water.

"We will be saying to Micheál Martin that the use of this sort of language by Fine Gael is not acceptable," the source told the Irish Independent.

Both parties are continuing to negotiate with Independent TDs ahead of tomorrow's crunch vote for Taoiseach.

As the political stalemate continues, neither Mr Kenny nor Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are expected to emerge with the backing of many Independents. It now looks likely that all 15 Independents engaged in the talks will abstain.

Mr Kenny and Mr Martin are to finally meet after the vote, possibly as early as tomorrow evening.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the only realistic options now were a minority government led by Mr Kenny - or an early general election.

Irish Independent

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