Wednesday 20 February 2019

Revenue should refund Irish Water customers, Fianna Fáil insists

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Philip Ryan and Niall O’Connor

Fianna Fáil has called for the Revenue Commissioners to be tasked with refunding Irish Water customers who paid their bills over the last two years.

In its submission to the Oireachtas Committee on the Oireachtas Committee on the future funding of Domestic Water Services, the party insists bill payers who have proof of payment should be able to avail of refunds from Revenue.

“Refunds of water charges paid to date should be issued via the Revenue Commission once proof of payment is provided. This should be cross referenced with Department of Social Protection Water Conservation Grant payments information to ensure there is no over payment, the document states.

Fianna Fáil is also sticking to its demand for the complete abolition of any charges for water. The party is insisting that those who waste or abuse water can be penalised under the existing Water Services Act 2007.

In the submission, the party says “contrary to media spin” it has always been in favour of curbing excessive use of water.

“The current Domestic Water charges regime should be abolished in full. However, we accept the Expert Commission view on the need to curb excessive water usage,” it states. It also notes the committee heard no evidence of “wide scale” abuse of water in Ireland. It also insists no more meters should be installed.

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen speaking outside Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen speaking outside Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has softened its stance and has asked the Dáil’s legal advisors to determine whether a Fianna Fáil proposal on water charges is compliant with EU law.

In documents circulated to TDs and senators today, the party says it will also request that the chairman of the water committee, Senator Pádraig Ó Ceidigh, meets the Attorney General to discuss the various legal advices received.

But the Fine Gael submission states that the party “will not support any Committee recommendation that calls on the Government to bring forward legislation that runs contrary to the advice of the Attorney General.”

The Fine Gael document states that in order to comply with EU law, a charge for excess usage should be introduced.

While the party says it would prefer if those who did not pay their bills were pursued, it admits that that such an approach could result in an “administrative costs”.

“The approach taken must reflect the commitment in the Confidence and Supply arrangement that those who have paid their water bills to date will be treated no less favourably than those who have not.”

The Fianna Fail submission is also especially critical of Housing Minister Simon Coveney’s intervention on the debate earlier this week.

“We are disappointed and surprised that Minister Coveney, who is not a member of the Committee, prematurely intervened by outlining advice he had from the Attorney General. This unprecedented move came before the Committee had even completed its own deliberations,” the document states.

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