Saturday 16 December 2017

Fianna Fáil contradicts Attorney General's warning of legal action from EU

Mr Kenny played down the issue when speaking in Brussels. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Mr Kenny played down the issue when speaking in Brussels. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

Niall O'Connor and Sarah Collins

Fianna Fáil's legal advice on the issue of water charges contradicts the ruling laid down by the Attorney General Máire Whelan.

The party's advice, seen by the Irish Independent, states that EU member states have a "wide discretion" in relation to the administration of a water system.

Contrary to the position laid down by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil's advice states that there is no requirement under EU law to ensure "cost recovery" from individual households.

"As a matter of law, Ireland has a wide discretion as to the 'choice of form and method' of implementing its obligations," the Fianna Fáil advice states.

The party's advice was issued by solicitors Darren Lehane and Conleth Bradley.

The party has been under pressure in recent weeks to release its legal advice.

The Irish Independent yesterday detailed the legal advice issued to Fine Gael by the Attorney General Ms Whelan, which states that Fianna Fáil's proposal could open Ireland up to legal action.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was coy last night when asked about the prospect of Fine Gael allowing Fianna Fáil to draft legislation on the issue of water charges.

Ministers say they will take this approach if the committee rules against the Government's position.

But Mr Kenny played down the issue when speaking in Brussels.

"Well, you don't want to make the advice of the Attorney General available like that," he said.

"I've said yesterday in the Dáil, we set up a committee to examine the recommendations of the expert commission. That committee has not finished its work. It was given a paper by the chairman.

"I would expect it to deliberate on that and continue its work until such time as it brings forward its views and its recommendations to the Oireachtas.

"We don't want to go beyond that at this stage.

"Clearly you're not going to be implementing something that's illegal."

When asked whether water was an issue that could bring down the Government, Mr Kenny said: "When it has (the committee) finished its work, it will report to the Oireachtas."

Irish Independent

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