Sunday 4 December 2016

Government Talks: Parties have reached an impasse over abolition of water charges

Published 20/04/2016 | 15:37

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny

Talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil about the formation of a government have reached an impasse over the abolition of water charges.

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Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin met this morning in an attempt to find a way of reaching a compromise – but there was no significant breakthrough.

Sources in both parties confirmed to Independent.ie that “a large gap” remains on the issue of charges.

Fianna Fáil promised in its pre-election manifesto to suspend charges for five years, while Fine Gael is fully committed to retaining charges.

It is understood that a proposal put forward by Fine Gael for a new series of allowances have not been accepted by Fianna Fáil.

The two negotiating teams are due to meet later today in Trinity College with a view to working towards a resolution.

A source close to the talks said: “Water charges was always going to be a stumbling block so it’s not surprising that we reached this point.

“Fine Gael’s compromise is on the table but Fianna Fáil isn’t biting yet.”

However, sources added that they still believe a deal will ultimately be done.

It is understood the offer from Fine Gael includes a new ‘afford to pay’ assessment and a substantial free allowance for households. The move would see cost of bills drop significantly.

There has also been a discussion around the further of Irish Water itself, with one idea being to make it a State agency.

Meanwhile the Labour Party’s seven TDs have met and decided they will not re-enter government.

Longford/Westmeath TD Willie Penrose said the election gave a mandate to other parties to form a government and “eight weeks on, it is now incumbent on those parties to do just that”.

“It is the view of the Parliamentary Labour Party, that we did not get such a mandate,” he said. 

He said Labour is a “party of action, not words, and pontificating and proselytising from the safety of the opposition benches is not what we are about”.

“However, it is clear that on this occasion, the offering we made to the electorate to form part of a stable administration, was rejected.

“Those that did get a mandate must honour their responsibilities to the electorate and end this period of political instability and paralysis,” he said.

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