Tuesday 10 December 2019

Tanaiste stands over 'personal opinion' of €200 water bill

In the Dail yesterday Ms Burton said a family of four adults will pay less than €200 per year in water charges
In the Dail yesterday Ms Burton said a family of four adults will pay less than €200 per year in water charges

Niall O'Connor

Ms Burton admitted that the proposal represented her “personal view” but insisted that both she and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are on the “same page” on the issue.

She told reporters that the €200 bill for a family of four adults takes into account the water support measures that will apply.

And she said she “does not believe” that Irish Water is now threatening the stability of the Coalition.

Read more: Angry scenes in Dail as Taoiseach says Joan Burton was 'speaking in a personal capacity' when quoting €200 water charge

“I’m very confident that the Taoiseach and I are very much on the same page on that,” Ms Burton said.

The Labour Party leader confirmed that the Coalition is considering the introduction of a fixed flat rate for at least two years. She said that this period is necessary to allow for the full roll out of meters and that it may extend to 2018.

“My expectation is that, when we talk about capped charges...that you’re talking about, I would have thought a minimum period of two years, and in practice a period that would extend somewhat further to do the kind of things we are talking about.”

Meanwhile, Ms Burton today played down the government’s embarrassing defeat in the Seanad on the issue of holding a referendum to keep Irish Water in public ownership.

Read more: Water protests have been a 'wake-up call' for government - Leo Varadkar

“I think when people raise issues, there is certainly no difficulty in exploring those issues. And my understanding is that the was what the Labour senators were voting to provide for.”

Separately, she welcomed confirmation from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) that the rate of unemployment for October has fallen to 11pc.

Junior Minister at the Department of Social Protection, Kevin Humphreys, said much of the employment growth has been recorded outside of urban areas such as Dublin.

The Tanaiste’s comments follow angry scenes in the Dail earlier today when Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the house Ms Burton was “speaking in a personal capacity” when she made the reference to water rates costing €200 for a family of four.

Mr Kenny said it would take the Government two more weeks to work out a detailed water charge regime.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Ms Burton could not have been speaking in a personal capacity. "She is deputy leader of government , she was answering questions at Dail question time and she is the Minister responsible for social protection," Mr Martin said.

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