Coalition in public row over water bills
Published 17/04/2014 | 02:30
The Labour Party wants to delay key decisions on water charges until after the local and European elections, Fine Gael now claims.
But in a highly public spat within the Coalition, Labour has accused its coalition partner of coming up with half-baked proposals.
Tensions mounted at a stormy Cabinet meeting where Taoiseach Enda Kenny told Labour ministers he had promised to tell householders how much water charges would cost before next month's elections.
The charge will be €240 for the average household, or €248 for a family of four.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore publicly indicated Labour's dissatisfaction over water charges centres on metering and the ability to pay.
Mr Gilmore said it was "never helpful" when issues were "trawled in the media" before being properly discussed by the Government.
Following the leaking of details of the proposals to the Irish Independent, Labour vetoed Fine Gael's proposals in a "major disagreement" within Cabinet.
The junior coalition party is furious with its partners for trying to "railroad it through".
"It's the most serious disagreement to date.
"The thing is half-baked, they have not thought through details of key issues like metering, standing charge, ability to pay, vulnerable groups like pensioners, conservation etc.
"Fine Gael's desire to have a number out there has blinded them to lack of detail on critical issues," a senior government source said.
But a Fine Gael source said Labour was afraid of having the figures out before the elections.
"The problem is the Labour lads on the doors are spooked by the prospects of water charges affecting their chances.
"Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail already had a campaign going saying it would be €750," a source said.
Labour TD Kevin Humphreys said he had lost trust in Fine Gael and felt the party was "totally out of order" in the way it was handling the water charge debate.
"I believe this is the second time Phil Hogan has tried to bounce the Labour Party into a decision – the first time was the septic tanks.
"It is no way to do business and it's no way to make rational decisions important to this country."
Mr Kenny also turned on Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, accusing FF of being "opportunistic hypocrites" in opposing water charges.
Amid angry Dail scenes, Mr Kenny brandished a Fianna Fail policy document which outlined planned water charges of €400 per year.
Mr Martin said Fine Gael had kept Labour "in the dark" over the issue and, more importantly, had not told the public the full truth.