Sunday 25 February 2018

TDs are being asked to 'break EU law' by legislating to suspend water charges – Howlin

Brendan Howlin Photo: Tom Burke
Brendan Howlin Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

FORMER Public Spending Minister, Brendan Howlin, has said a law before the Dáil to suspend water charges effectively breaks EU law.

The Labour leader challenged Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald following an assertion yesterday by the EU Environment Commissioner that Ireland has no exemption on water charges.

Commissioner Karmenu Vella said Ireland’s earlier exemption ended in July 2010 when the Fianna Fáil-Green Party Coalition told Brussels they were introducing water charges.

Mr Howlin, who was still a government minister two months ago, said legislation currently going through the Dáil breached EU law.  He said EU law takes precedence over the Irish Constitution and legislation.

“The Oireachtas has never before knowingly been asked to contravene European law,” the Labour leader said.

The Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, said the Government was acting in line with the law and the Constitution and the water legislation will proceed.

She said the issue had been fully debated by Cabinet and a meeting with the EU Commissioner was now scheduled.

Ms Fitzgerald rejected arguments by Anti-Austerity Alliance TD, Paul Murphy, that the EU was seeking to set aside the Irish general election outcome which was a vote against water charges.

Mr Murphy cited German socialist writer, Bertolt Brecht, saying the EU Commission wanted “to dissolve the people and elect another.”  The AAA deputy said the EU was “authoritian, capitalist and militaristic”.

The Justice Minister also told Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald that Northern Ireland’s interests would be promoted by the Government in upcoming Brexit talks with the EU. She said Belfast, Dublin and London would cooperate at every level of negotiations.

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