Tuesday 17 October 2017

Minister says Kenny's water charges remarks 'not helpful'

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Seán Canney Photo: Tom Burke
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Seán Canney Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

An Independent minister has said that Taoiseach Enda Kenny's remarks that water charges can't be abolished were "not really helpful".

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Seán Canney was responding to Mr Kenny's hard line in reopening the debate on charges when he warned homeowners: "You are going to have to pay."

The Taoiseach made the remarks in an interview with the Irish Independent after indications from the European Commission last week that water charges can't be abolished once they are in place.

The comments prompted anger in Fianna Fáil which agreed to facilitate the Fine Gael minority government in a deal that will see water charges suspended and their future reviewed by an expert commission.

Mr Canney last night acknowledged that there are "soundings from Europe that we have to have water charges".

"I would suggest maybe it might be something that people should just wait and see rather than giving opinions at this stage."

He said Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agreed that there would be a nine-month review by the expert commission of how the water system is to be funded.

"If that's what's been decided, let's wait the nine months and give them a chance to do something rather than trying to pre-empt it by making statements that are not really helpful at this stage."

He said that while he "wouldn't be critical" of Mr Kenny's intervention, "it's my motto that you say nothing until you have something to say and we have nothing to say about water charges until the commission reports back".

Fianna Fáil TDs weren't slow in criticising Mr Kenny, with environment spokesman Barry Cowen calling on Mr Kenny to "retract" his remarks. He said his party's deal with Fine Gael included a "clear understanding" that water charges could be scrapped if it was recommended by an Oireachtas Committee and voted on by the Dáil.

Meanwhile, Mr Cowen's party colleague Willie O'Dea said Mr Kenny's comments are "not credible", that Fianna Fáil's position remains the same, and their legal advice says that charges can be abolished within EU law.

Mr Kenny said it's his belief that the European rules mean charges will have to stay.

"The Dáil is not going to vote for something that it knows is illegal," he said.

Irish Independent

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