Dáil set to hear motion on immediate scrapping of water charges

Dáil set to hear motion on immediate scrapping of water charges

39 TDs have backed a Dáil motion to immediately scrap water charges and hold a referendum to prevent water services from privatisation, placing direct pressure on Fianna Fáil not refuse any Fine Gael deal that ignores their pre-election promises, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith Irish Examiner, Political Reporter.

Sinn Féin, AAA-PBP, Social Democrats, the four-strong Independents for Change and unaligned Independents Catherine Connolly, Seamus Healy and Thomas Pringle confirmed the motion will be placed before the Dáil at the next available opportunity as the future of the utility continues to dominate government formation talks.

Speaking at a joint press briefing outside Leinster House, the groups said regardless of any Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil deal Micheal Martin's party has an obligation to ensure water charges are scrapped as it promised voters before the election.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said the need to scrap water charges is "a test of democracy", while AAA-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett said if Fianna Fáil back tracks "people are going to hit the streets in the next few weeks".

The move by the 39 opposition TDs is being seen as an attempt to place increasing pressure on Fianna Fáil regardless of any deal with Fine Gael.

Should Fianna Fáil's 43 TDs support the motion, the charges scrappage and referendum plans would receive the backing of 82 TDs and would be automatically passed into law.

Dáil set to hear motion on immediate scrapping of water charges

However, if the party rejects the plan or abstains, opposition groups are likely to claim Micheál Martin's party is allowing Irish Water to continue despite campaigning before the election to remove it - an issue the TDs backing the motion have been increasingly vocal on in recent days.

Speaking at a separate event in support of Luas drivers who are taking industrial action on Thursday, left-wing TDs hit out at any deal that will see the continuation of water charges - insisting it would ignore what people voted for.

The claim was made by the AAA-PBP, Sinn Féin and left-leaning Independents, including AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger, who said the mooted Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil plan is a "ploy" as "waivers and allowances can be taken away at any time".

Calling for a Right2Water national protest to underline the position, she said "70%" of TDs elected to the Dáil in February ran on anti-water charge platforms and that if the fees are not now cancelled the public will have a "legal right" to ignore the fees.

Party colleague Mr Boyd Barrett said: "Fianna Fáil are beginning to get slippery on this issue" and that "if we're supposed to be doing politics in a new way, if we're supposed to have reform, those who said they would end water charges need to follow through on that".

The opposition parties have also been highly critical of the fact Irish Water's latest quarterly payment/cancellation figures for January to March have yet to be published, despite the fact they have been due for a number of days.

In previous quarterly periods the figures have been published on July 15, October 22 and January 14 respectively, leading to claims the ongoing failure to publish the latest details is a deliberate attempt to suppress the information while government talks continue.

However, an Irish Water spokesperson has insisted the delay is simply because the utility is "currently collating the information from the cycle" and that "once all information has been collated we will publish the details".

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