Friday 9 December 2016

Water charges set to be scrapped for foreseeable future as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil finally close in on deal

Kevin Doyle and Barry Lennon

Published 26/04/2016 | 21:54

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

Water charges are set to be scrapped for the foreseeable future as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil finally close in on a deal that will see Enda Kenny re-elected as Taoiseach.

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Talks between the two parties made significant progress tonight with sources in both parties suggesting the country may finally have a new government within days.

Independent.ie understands that Fine Gael has agreed to suspend water charges while a commission of experts draw up a report on how best to re-introduce them and encourage conservation.

It is anticipated that the commission would take up to nine months to complete its work before making a submission to an all-party Oireachtas committee.

That committee will then be in a position to call its own witnesses and tease out the deal of the commission’s work before making a recommendation to the Dáil.

TDs will then have to vote on how to fund the country’s water infrastructure.

No definitive timeline has been set agreed for when the committee would finish its work but one senior Fine Gael source suggested tonight the issue should be resolved by summer 2017.

However, Fianna Fáil noted that a majority of TDs object to water charges meaning that once they are suspended they are unlikely to return in the lifetime of this Dáil.

As he left the negotiations tonight Fine Gael's Simon Coveney said both his party and Fianna Fail agreed a “basis for moving forward” on Irish Water after previous stalemate on the issue.

Mr Coveney refused to be drawn on the details but said: “An approach was discussed this evening that has the potential to be the basis for agreement.”

He added that “nothing has been signed off” when leaving the talks at Trinity College tonight after five hours of discussion.

Fianna Fail negotiator Jim O'Callaghan agreed that progress had been made.

“There are still however a number issues that have to be dealt with including water and rent supplement,” Mr O'Callaghan added.

“Tomorrow is going to be an important day but we have to go back to our leader first. The fact there has been movement is significant.”

Both parties will meet again in Trinity College tomorrow.

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