'Households must be ones to decide if water meters stay or go,' says Murphy
A leading member of the anti-water charges movement has said individual households should dictate whether meters remain in the ground.
Dublin South West TD Paul Murphy, who sits on the Oireachtas water committee, said a process should be put in place whereby families can apply to Irish Water to have their meters removed.
The Anti Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit (AAA/PBP) TD also dismissed the notion that the meters were essential for detecting leaks.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Murphy insisted that households opposed to water meters remaining in their locality should decide if they remain installed.
"People are now entitled to say: 'You put in a water meter, perhaps against my wishes, perhaps when the family was out at work or school or whatever, and now we don't want this anymore'. I think that's reasonable," Mr Murphy said.
"The Government has been guilty of overplaying the benefits and the importance of meters for detecting leaks. They (the Expert Commission) see that, OK in theory they could play a role, but they also point to district meters in being the key. So there is lots of ways of finding water leaks without having individual water meters."
He said he believed the majority of people would not seek to have their meters removed but that an application process should be put in place.
Asked what use should be made of meters that were removed from the ground at a household's request, Mr Murphy said: "That's up to the Government and Irish Water."
Mr Murphy said that the future of water charges - which will be subject to a Dáil vote in the spring - hinged significantly on the approach taken by Fianna Fáil.
The 20-person committee last month began considering the recommendations from the expert water commission.
The commission recommended that households should get a free allowance of water that covered their ordinary domestic and personal needs.
Those who used quantities beyond this point - known as 'wasteful usage' - should be forced to pay.
The commission said there was "overwhelming support" for retaining Irish Water as a public utility.
But Mr Murphy said the fate of water charges would depend significantly on Fianna Fáil.
"The mathematics show they have the balance of power in the committee, they have the balance of power in the Dáil," he said.
He strongly criticised Micheál Martin's party over its stance on water. Mr Murphy said Fianna Fáil was prepared to allow for the introduction of charges of about €500 when in government in 2010.
"From our point of view, it may become clear early in the new year which way Fianna Fáil is going to swing," Mr Murphy said.
"We are going to be building for, and trying to organise, a major protest to happen around the time the committee will report in advance of the Dáil voting on it, to make sure they aren't in any doubt, that if they think this has gone away as an issue, if they think they will get away with so-called excessive usage charges, they won't. They will pay a big, big price."