Tuesday 6 December 2016

'I don't want to commit to anything' - Taoiseach doesn't rule out refunds for water charges

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent in San Francisco

Published 01/12/2016 | 06:35

Mr Kenny said his message for US firms is that “Ireland is open for business” Photo: Collins
Mr Kenny said his message for US firms is that “Ireland is open for business” Photo: Collins

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has not ruled out refunds for households who paid their water charges.

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He said he didn't want to commit to anything until the Oireachtas committee examining the Expert Commission's report on water has carried out their deliberations.

Meanwhile, he declined to say if he agreed with housing minister Simon Coveney who is opposed to refunds.

Mr Coveney is coming under pressure from within Fine Gael to agree to refunds after the Expert Commission recommended that normal water usage be paid for through general taxation.

Asked if households who paid their bills should get refunds, Mr Kenny replied: “The first thing we have to do here is let the committee do its work.

“The Commission have reported so the committee will analyse the proposals and the findings and the recommendations”.

Mr Kenny was asked if he agreed with Mr Coveney's position on refunds.

He didn't respond directly, instead reiterating that the Oireachtas committee will be examining the Commission's report.

Asked if he would rule out refunds Mr Kenny said: “I don't want to commit to anything now until such time as the committee is allowed to do its work.”

Read more: 'Officially lesser citizens': Farm families now set to pay 'on the double' for water

He pointed out that Fine Gael's position during the negotiations to form a government was that there would be a national public utility for water, metering to determine usage and to find leaks, and a “fair and affordable charging regime”.

He said the Expert Commission was established after the talks with Fianna Fáil and that the Oireachtas committee will now examine the Commission's work.

“We'll let them do their work and see what recommendations they put forward and the vote will take place in the Dáil on that in March,” Mr Kenny added.

He was speaking ahead of an Enterprise Ireland business networking event in Palo Alto, California.

Mr Kenny said his message for US firms is that “Ireland is open for business”.

He spoke of Ireland's economic recovery and how, in the context of Brexit, the country remains a committed member of the European Union.

He will meet Apple boss Tim Cook later today and will also address another business event at Facebook headquarters.

Mr Kenny said he wasn't concerned about Apple's future in Ireland in the wake of the European Commission's ruling that the State must seek €13bn in back taxes from the tech giant. The government rejects the finding that Apple was provided illegal state aid and is appealing the decision.

Read more: ‘No refund for water billpayers’ – Coveney

Mr Kenny pointed out that Apple has announced a major expansion of its Cork base and is also developing another site in Athenry, Co Galway.

“Tim Cook himself has been publicly and privately very strongly in support and very happy with... their investment in Ireland over very many years,” he said.

Last night Mr Kenny also met with George and Jackie Donohoe, the parents of Ashley Donohoe, the Irish-American student who died along with five other Irish students in last year's horrific balcony collapse in nearby Berkeley

The Taoiseach met with the families of the victims along with some survivors in government buildings last week.

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