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'No hard line on enforcing water charges', says Coveney


Housing Minister Simon Coveney

Housing Minister Simon Coveney

Housing Minister Simon Coveney

Fine Gael members of the Oireachtas committee on water will be allowed to have an "open mind" on the issue of refunds, Housing Minister Simon Coveney has said.

Despite consistently saying he believes everybody should be forced to pay their water bills, Mr Coveney has now told the Herald he is not taking a hard line approach.

"Everyone is going to have to move a little towards the middle to deliver an outcome," Mr Coveney said.

The minister's comments open the door to the possibility of Fine Gael's six members of the water committee compromising on the issue.

Although Mr Coveney insists that his "personal view" is that refunds would set a "dangerous precedent", he added: "If I'm too prescriptive at the start, our team won't have any room to negotiate at the committee."

He described the subject as "toxic" and said it was time to "put this issue to bed once and all".

Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen said the minister's statement about needing to ensure everybody paid their charges was "rushed". "He jumped the gun when he had no right to," Mr Cowen said. "It will be up to the committee to explore, analyse and check the costs associated with chasing people or giving refunds."

However, the Labour Party's member on the committee, Jan O'Sullivan, said Mr Cowen was trying to sit on the fence. "The only thing to do is to refund people if they are going to get rid of charges," she said. "Fianna Fail need to take responsibility like the rest of us."