Saturday 23 September 2017

Fine Gael: We will not 'prosecute' those who waste water

Party says proposal at water committee will clog up courts

Kate O'Connell TD Picture: David Conachy
Kate O'Connell TD Picture: David Conachy

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

FINE Gael has warned it will not accept a proposal to prosecute households that “wilfully abuse water or permit wastage” amid fears such a move could result in a flurry of court cases.

The party has today said that such a clause, contained in a draft report circulated to members of the Oireachtas water committee, will have to be removed for a deal on water charges to be struck.

Fine Gael is also unhappy over a separate proposal for Irish Water to use “satellite image” to determine which households are engaging in so-called ‘excessive usage’.

The committee concluded its meeting this afternoon without agreement on several key elements of the draft report, a copy of which has been obtained by Independent.ie.

The issue that has caused most disquiet relates to the prospect of prosecuting those who waste water.

“The Committee recommends that the Water Services Act 2007 be amended to ensure that those who wilfully abuse water or permit wastage can be prosecuted and that sanctions can be imposed,” the document states.

Two Fine Gael members of the committee, deputy Kate O’Connell and senator Paudie Coffey, have both raised major objections.

“We do not believe prosecuting people is workable,” Ms O’Connell told Independent.ie.

Mr Coffey insisted he and his colleagues will seek the removal of the term ‘prosecuted’.

“We are opposing this forcefully and fully. We do not want to prosecute anybody. We simply want to make sure they are charged if they use over and above what is deemed normal usage,” the Waterford politician added.

But consensus is growing about the use of existing laws to tackle so-called ‘excessive usage’.

This has been a sticking point between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for several weeks.

Lawyers for the Oireachtas were asked to consider whether introducing changes to a 2007 law called the Water Services Act will ensure Ireland complies with its EU obligations known as the Water Framework Directive.

“It seems to me that the Water Services Act of 2007 can be amended to meet the overall obligations arising from the Water Framework Directive and comply with the and to address and comply with the polluter pays provisions in it,”the legal advice states.

Both Fianna Fáil and Dublin South West TD Paul Murphy have been calling for such an approach to be taken for several weeks.

Fine Gael has said it is willing to compromise on this area. The committee is due to meet again on Wednesday.

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