Monday 18 November 2019

Varadkar refuses to describe Fine Gael’s water battle as a win for his leadership rival Coveney

Leo Varadkar Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Leo Varadkar Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has refused to describe the outcome of Fine Gael’s water battle with Fianna Fáil as a win for his leadership rival Simon Coveney.

Mr Varadkar said the Fine Gael team on the water committee “achieved the best deal that was possible based on the Dáil arithmetic”.

However, he refused to engage say whether it was a “win” for the Housing Minister, telling reporters: “I’m not going to get into that space.”

The deal agreed last night will see around 70,000 households still receive water bills on the basis that they use “excessive” amounts of water.

However, normal usage will be paid for through general taxation.

Mr Varadkar previous told a private meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators that such a result could not be classed as a “political victory” because the party favoured water charges for all homes.

Mr Coveney, who along with Mr Varadkar is seen as a frontrunner to replace Enda Kenny as party leader, has been praised by colleagues for “sticking to his guns” when Fianna Fáil appeared to be siding with Sinn Féin to end all charges.

Asked if the result looks better in light of the row that has engulfed Leinster House for the past 10 days, Mr Varadkar said: "What I think there has been far too much of when it water in Ireland, is far too much party politics and far too much personality politics.

“When we make decisions on water it should be about protecting the environment, protecting the taxpayer from potential fines and ensuring we have a decent stream of income for water services into the future.”

He added that he was “absolutely delighted” the debate over water was now ending.

“The problem with water for years and years now is that the focus has been on political gain, one-up-manship and party politics rather than what’s the right thing to do,” he said.

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