Sunday 19 November 2017

Fianna Fáil's stance has been vindicated, says Cowen

Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen said the report of the Expert Commission on water vindicated his party's stance and meant charges were "dead and won't be returning".

Meanwhile, Housing Minister Simon Coveney insisted that it was still Fine Gael policy to pursue householders who did not pay for the outstanding charges. Mr Coveney said he hoped the report would be an opportunity "to once and for all put this issue to bed".

But left-wing politicians said there should be no charges of any kind, even for those who waste water.

The report is now to be examined by a 20-member Oireachtas Committee chaired by Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh.

The committee will have five Government-appointed members and four from Fianna Fáil.

Mr Coveney said there was an acceptance in the report that only those who waste water would have to pay charges, and added that this covered the "polluter pays" principle demanded under EU law.

"I don't think it's fair to ask the taxpayer to effectively pay for somebody down the road who's leaving the taps on... or is washing their car every second day with water that is being funded by the taxpayer," he told RTÉ, adding that the report's recommendations "are a "good basis for discussion".

Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin claimed the commission was always going to propose some form of charging that "would be politically palatable to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael". He added: "And that's what we've got."

He said his party was opposed to any form of charges and speculated that the proposal for fees for excessive use would cost more to enforce than it would collect in funds.

He also said it would be difficult to work out "exactly what wastage is" and said there were "better ways" to get people to conserve water.

He claimed the report "blows a hole" in Fine Gael's argument that EU law requires that the funding of domestic water services requires charges. AAA-PBP TD Bríd Smith also reiterated her group's opposition to charges.

Irish Independent

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