Sunday 18 February 2018

FF set to back referendum on Irish Water

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

A referendum on whether Irish Water should be brought under public ownership is now on the cards.

Fianna Fáil yesterday stunned Fine Gael ministers after agreeing to back a bill tabled by 'Independents4Change' TD Joan Collins.

The bill, which will be voted upon by TDs tomorrow, proposes the staging of a referendum to ensure water services remain in public ownership.

Some 39 other TDs, including Sinn Féin representatives, are also set to support the bill meaning its passing is inevitable.

At yesterday's Cabinet meeting, Housing and Planning Minister Simon Coveney was authorised to engage with other party spokespeople about the bill before the vote takes place.

The Government is expected not to oppose the bill, thus facilitating it to reach pre-legislative stage.

But a senior Government source last night criticised Fianna Fáil over its decision to adopt this position.

"Does anyone actually know where Fianna Fáil is at in relation to water?" the source asked.

But Fianna Fáil's housing spokesperson Barry Cowen defended his party's position, which was agreed at its front bench meeting in Leinster House yesterday.

"We agreed to facilitate the bill to pre-legislative scrutiny stage. We made it clear during the general election campaign and in the discussions with Fine Gael that we support public ownership of the water and wastewater infrastructure," Mr Cowen said in a statement last night.

"There are a couple of issues with the bill that we will be examining during the pre-legislative stage, including group water schemes and private wells and whether this could be open to legal challenge," he added.

Irish Independent

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