A MUDDLE over who pays for installing household water meters looks like creating a bigger fiasco than the household charge.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said no decision has been made on what householders will be expected to pay -- while the Department of the Environment indicated previously that homeowners would have to pay for the installation of the meters.
Meanwhile Taoiseach Enda Kenny declared that householders must pay the cost of the new meter -- but they would not have to pay for the installation work when the meters are being fitted.
Fianna Fail said today it was "absolutely" resist any bid to get householders to pay for their meters.
And Sinn Fein's environment spokesman Brian Stanley warned any attempt to bill householders for the cost of installing the meters will be "fiercely resisted".
Mr Stanley said he would not be paying such a bill and it would be up to householders themselves to decide whether they will pay.
Confusion is expected to continue to "muddy the waters" until the Cabinet signs off on the details of the nationwide meter scheme, which will usher in water charges for all homes.
The growing controversy comes in the wake of the household charge fiasco, which has seen just 890,000 out of 1.72 million homes paying the €100 levy so far.
In a bid to soften the blow, the Government may propose enabling homeowners to spread the cost of paying for their water meters over several years.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday that householders will have to pay for the new meters, but the cost of installing them in over one million homes will be borne by a loan from the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF).
The water charges are to be brought in within two years and Environment Minister Phil Hogan said nobody will be charged until meters are installed. His spokeswoman said a figure of €300 as a possible price of a new meter was "pure speculation".
Eamon Gilmore said: "There will be an arrangement whereby there will be an allowance, household allowance in respect of water and then there will be charging beyond that -- but the amount and the charge for a meter, that's something that has not been decided yet."
Fianna Fail's environment spokesman Niall Collins said today his party will "absolutely" resist any attempt by the Government to make householders pay for the meters. That includes any proposal to make residents pay by instalments.
Mr Collins said hard-pressed families had enough new charges without the imposition of a charge for water meters. Fianna Fail accepted, however, the need for water charges once each home received a generous allowance of free water.