Latest: Fianna Fáil make water charges submission that may end stand-off with Fine Gael

Latest: Fianna Fáil make water charges submission that may end stand-off with Fine Gael

Update - 2.15pm: A deal could be agreed between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to end the stand-off over water charges which this week threatened to topple the minority government.

Both parties today lodged their submissions to the Oireachtas Committee on the future of water services and water charges, writes Juno McEnroe of the Irish Examiner.

Fine Gael want a so-called "excess charge" to remain where households would be penalised for using over and above a generous free allowance.

Fianna Fáil though want to entirely scrap water charges and housing spokesman Barry Cowen went as far this week as warning that Housing Minister Simon Coveney would collapse the government support deal if bills were not scrapped.

But in a surprise development today, Micheál Martin's party have paved the way for a deal to resolve the deadlock.

Party sources told the Irish Examiner the party's submission to the 20-member committee on water suggests that there could be a way of assessing excess use.

The existing 2007 water legislation could be changed to allow for a "statutory instrument" to be added or created which would outline or assess what is "willful abuse" of water usage, Fianna Fáil sources said.

This measure may help both sides reach a compromise. The committee has a small window to come to an agreement on its report next week, ahead of a Dáil vote on the future of water charges by the end of March.

The Government have ruled out introducing any fresh legislation which might breach EU laws.

Minister Coveney says the failure to legislate for an excess charge would leave Ireland open to massive fines and break the law.

Overhauling the existing the 2007 legislation to include excess use or "willful abuse" of allowances may satisfy both sides and break the deadlock between both parties.

Update 9.30am: It has been reported that families could receive a refund on their water bills.

According to the Irish Independent, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have reached a compromise - following a week of turmoil on the issue.

It is believed households will get back up to €325 under the deal.

Earlier:

Sinn Féin has described the Taoiseach's comments on water charges as "bogus".

Enda Kenny yesterday insisted Fine Gael will not facilitate any laws to scrap all domestic water charges - which the party says would be illegal.

The Oireachtas Committee discussing the future of water has given parties until later today to make new proposals on whether the public should be charged for excessive use.

"Well, the Taoiseach's comments from yesterday are completely bogus," said Sinn Fein's spokesman on water is Eoin O'Broin.

Latest: Fianna Fáil make water charges submission that may end stand-off with Fine Gael

"Scotland has no domestic water charges and they are fully compliant with EU law, Northern Ireland has no domestic water charges and they are fully compliant with EU law.

"So, so as long as we meet the environmental objective contained in EU legislation, which Sinn Féin believes we can, then the issue of charges is irrelevant."

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