The return of the hugely divisive water charges debate will not bring the Government down, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said.
TDs and senators are to spend the next two months debating the future of the charges in a committee before the matter is put to a Dáil vote in March.
Senior Fine Gael ministers want to see the back of the issue, with Finance Minister Michael Noonan saying in November that the "dead cat" of water charges must be taken off the agenda before the next election.
Mr Kenny insisted he did not believe the issue would mean that voters would have to return to the polls this year.
"Do I think that will bring the Government down? No I don't," he told reporters .
The Oireachtas Committee will debate the report of an Expert Commission that recommended that charges be all but abolished in favour of paying for water through general taxation. Charges would be imposed for wasteful use of water under the proposals.
Mr Kenny was asked if there should be attachment orders placed on wages or social welfare payments of those who did not pay the now-suspended charges.
"I'm not going to give you a verdict on what might transpire from the outcome of the water situation; I'd much prefer to let the committee make its recommendation," he said.
"I take the remark made by the commission that those who paid shouldn't be treated any less fairly than those who didn't and that's a question that will be decided ultimately in the Oireachtas."
Mr Kenny also defended the work of Irish Water, which he argued "is already proving its worth both in terms of procurement, and in terms of the real advances that are now being made in supply, fixing leaks and waste water".
He said it was Fine Gael's position that Irish Water should remain as a single publicly owned entity, that there should be a metering programme and "that you should pay a fair charge in excess of a generous allowance".