Wednesday 24 January 2018

'Leo Varadkar said water meters were Fine Gael's “e-voting machines multiplied by 10”' - Micheál Martin

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Louise Kelly & Kevin Doyle

Micheál Martin has claimed that Leo Varadkar said the water meters were Fine Gael's “e-voting machines multiplied by 10”.

The Fianna Fail leader made the comments during an interview on RTE Radio 1's Sean O'Rourke this morning.

He said that Varadkar made the declaration during Government formation talks.

"The problem as I see it is that the [Irish Water] model was too excessive on families," Martin said earlier on the radio show.

However, Martin maintained that households who have not yet paid their water bills "should be pursued".

"People who haven't paid should pay, and people who haven't should be pursued."

"Any deputy in Dail should uphold parliamentary law. You might not like the law, but you still have to adhere to it."

Responding to Mr Martin's comments about him, Leo Varadkar said the Fianna Fáil leader "may not have the full picture" on Government talks.

“Micheál Martin was not present for any of the talks so he may not have a full picture of the discussions.”

“The point I was making was that €500 million worth of public money has been spent putting water meters into the ground. Metering is the most effective way to identify leaks and promote conservation by allowing people to monitor how much water they use. I think it would be a real waste if they weren't used.'

Meanwhile, Martin said that he believed the public will give the new Government "a fair wind".

"Rather than whining about it we need to get down to action."

He said that the Government now "has a prospect of sustaining and tackling the bigger issues of housing and health" now that the "issue of Irish Water has been dealt with".

"Health and housing are among the defining issues facing the next Dail," said Martin.

"We will work to reduce waiting list times... waiting lists are unacceptable.

"I'm all for increasing the qualification threshold and management expertise that is made available to primary care and community care.

"Chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes are going to be the main issues."

Mr Martin said that he is not approaching minority government with a view to “pulling the plug”.

But he warned that Fianna Fáil have a deal on issues such as health, education and public services.

“If there’s a breach of those agreements on a consistent basis it would trigger a review of the situation,” he said.

The Cork TD said the government would have to accept that it may lose Dáil votes on issues that will not bring down the arrangement.

“It’s worth going with this. The people have voted. We can go back and seek a mandate within weeks, I don’t think people want that. We have to play with the cards we’ve been dealt,” he said.

Asked about his plans for a frontbench reshuffle, Mr Martin said he was working on it this week and will appoint a new team shortly.

However, he said he has no intention of appointed deputy leader.

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