Fianna Fáil has rejected for a second time a Fine Gael offer to suspend water charges for a six to nine month period, writes Irish Examiner Political Editor Daniel McConnell.
A meeting of the two parties this evening ended without agreement with Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen describing the chances of a deal at only “50:50”.
Fine Gael restated the offer rejected Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the weekend.
This included a temporary suspension of water charges while an independent commission would undertake to devise a new charging system.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, members of the Fianna Fáil revealed that they strongly rejected the offer made and insisted it could not settle for a short term suspension.
One member of the Fianna Fail negotiating team dismissed Mr Coveney's comments of a counter offer as “Fine Gael spin”.
The member said Fine Gael merely restated an offer which their leader Micheál Martin already rejected at the weekend.
The Fianna Fail negotiator said that contrary to the perceived wisdom, the actual Fine Gael offer to suspend water charges was for six to nine months and not the two years claimed earlier.
Central to the Fianna Fail unhappiness is Fine Gael's demand that the current charging structure be reintroduced once the suspension period is over, in the case of the commission failing to recommend a new arrangement.
“They want the will of the last Dail in terms of charges imposed on this one, even though it was rejected. They are spinning they are the reasonable ones, but people have rejected their model on water charges,” the Fianna Fail TD said.
The talks lasted three hours and will resume tomorrow, focused primarily on Irish Water.
It is understood that the exchanges today were among the “most frank” of the talks yet.
For its part, Fine Gael insisted Fianna Fáil made no counter proposal to the offer.
Simon Coveney requested one be made at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning.
This was rejected as spin by Fianna Fail TDs. Fianna Fail negotiators insisted they offered a series of alternatives to the proposal.
Talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have ended in stalemate this evening but are to reconvene tomorrow.
Fine Gael re-stated an offer made to Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin by Enda Kenny over the weekend, which would see water charges suspended for up to two years and a commission established over the future of Irish Water.
Speaking at the conclusion of the talks, acting Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney confirmed that he and his fellow negotiators made an offer “to move things on”.
However, the Fianna Fail team did not respond in detail with a counter offer. It is expected that Fianna Fail will give their decision when the teams reconvene tomorrow.
Barry Cowen, one of the lead Fianna Fail negotiators, confirmed that little progress was made today.
“There hasn't been a breakthrough,” he said. Asked about his view on the prospect of the talks succeeding, Mr Cowen said: "It's still a 50-50 chance”.
Mr Cowen said despite the Fine Gael offer, Fianna Fáil remains true to its manifesto commitments including its call for a five-year suspension of water charges.