Irish Water ruling 'embarrassing' for Government, Noonan admits

Irish Water ruling 'embarrassing' for Government, Noonan admits

By David Raleigh

The Minister for Finance has admitted a ruling by Eurostat, that the cost of Irish Water must remain on the Government's balance sheet, is "embarrassing" and "controversial" for the government.

However, even though the cost of Irish Water will remain on the national balance sheet following the ruling in Brussels, Minister Michael Noonan insisted that it will not affect the Government's Budget plans.

Speaking on Limerick's Live 95FM, Minister Noonan said: "While the announcement is embarrassing, and is going to cause more controversy around Irish Water, in terms of the Budget position, it doesn't reduce my space to give modest extra spending increases through Brendan Howlin, and to give reasonable tax reductions on personal taxes.

"I still have the space of €1.2bn to €1.5bn.

"Whether it's on balance sheet or off balance sheet, it's the same amount of money. All that's in question is how the spend is accounted for," he said.

Minister Noonan said the Government had already planned for the Eurostat ruling which he described as a "prudent" Government decision.

"When I was making out the forecast for the October budget and for the next five years, back in April, in the 'Spring Statement', we acted very prudently and we decided that the decision could go against Ireland, so we kept Irish Water on the balance sheet, so it makes no difference to our Budget plans."

"We have the same amount of money available in the Budget as we predicted in April. There's no difference there."

"Where the difference is, is that if they had made a decision to take it off balance sheet, our deficit would have been a bit lower at the end of the year, but we have predicted a deficit of 2.3% and that stands, because we included Irish Water's spend on balance sheet and we have included it in the numbers right out to 2020."

"But that was at a time when the Government finances weren't as good as they are now.

"Things have improved very rapidly over the last 18 months and this year, in tax terms, were €1.4bn better than we thought we would be last October when I brought the budget in," Minister Noonan added.

"There's going to be controversy, there's no doubt about that and the controversy has started already."

"But, the point about it is, it doesn't change the necessity of having clean water in the country; it doesn't change the necessity to stop 17 towns pouring raw sewage into their local rivers and into their local harbour; and it doesn't stop people some people getting water and lead pipes; it doesn't stop the problem of 40% of the water leaking through the ground," he said.

"We took the (financial) hit back in April, so it doesn't change anything now," he reiterated.

Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen says the government should call an election and face the music:

"Who is accountable, who is responsible for bringing us to this crossroads?" he asked.

"Whom is going to take the fall for this disaster? Because as far as I can see, the whole of Government is responsible and the whole of Government need to say to the Irish public and need to put themselves before the Irish public for re-election as soon as possible and let this be to the forefront of any such debate that takes place."

More on this topic

Irish Water warned about failing filters in Leixlip plant in 2014Irish Water warned about failing filters in Leixlip plant in 2014

Irish Water's plans to charge for wasted water on hold until 2022Irish Water's plans to charge for wasted water on hold until 2022

Thousands told not to drink tap water in CavanThousands told not to drink tap water in Cavan

Narrowing gap between supply and demand in Dublin, warns Irish WaterNarrowing gap between supply and demand in Dublin, warns Irish Water


More in this Section

Man who left former partner unconscious in pool of blood after beating during safety order breach gets three yearsMan who left former partner unconscious in pool of blood after beating during safety order breach gets three years

Election 2020: How do I register to vote?Election 2020: How do I register to vote?

Family of pregnant woman kept alive over Eighth Amendment worries seek €3.3m damages over her deathFamily of pregnant woman kept alive over Eighth Amendment worries seek €3.3m damages over her death

Waterford Cllrs agree to self-regulate their social media accounts Waterford Cllrs agree to self-regulate their social media accounts


Lifestyle

Hannah Stephenson has advice on how to care for your garden when wet weather strikesHow to prevent and deal with waterlogging in the garden

If you're down in the epidermal dumps, exfoliation, hydration and decongesting is what you need.The Skin Nerd: How to prep and pep that played-out January skin

The Winter Show, which gets underway in New York this Friday, is a celebration of world cultures, from antiquity to the present.Time travellers are packing their suitcases for New York this week

“Finish him!” It’s one of the most famous lines in video games – in fact, they pretty much built the entire series around it. Mortal Kombat is notorious for brutal finishing moves, in which the characters kill off their opponents in horrific (and often humourous) fashion.Game Tech: Mortal line lives on in the cinema

More From The Irish Examiner