Latest: Fine Gael call for legal advice on water charge report

Latest: Fine Gael call for legal advice on water charge report

Update 4pm: Fine Gael is asking the Oireachtas committee on water to get legal advice on three concerns over its final report.

The party believes the recommendations might bring Ireland into conflict with European law.

It wants a senior barrister, who specialises in EU affairs, to rule on whether the report would require the State to establish someone's motive for using excessive water before fining them.

The party also wants advice on whether it would be legal to have a flat-rate penalty for excessive water users.

The concerns are the same ones raised by Simon Coveney in a letter to the committee's chairman last night.

Latest: Fine Gael call for legal advice on water charge report

Update 12.29pm: Former Labour Party leader Joan Burton says the row over water charges makes the Government look 'helpless and hapless'.

Fine Gael can't agree with Fianna Fáil if we should take the advice of the Oireachtas water funding committee.

Micheál Martin agrees that we should scrap bills, but Housing Minister Simon Coveney has warned that it could lead to EU fines.

Former Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton says the argument over water is embarrassing.

"I think it makes the Government look hopeless and hapless to be honest," she said.

"Just reading some of the committee stuff, there are two very significant Fianna Fáil members on that committee - Willie O'Dea and Barry Cowen - and essentially I think what they've done is pushed Fine Gael into a very, very difficult corner."

Latest: Fine Gael call for legal advice on water charge report

Earlier:

Simon Coveney has written to the committee discussing the future of water charges, saying their final report might leave us open to major fines.

The Minister’s letter comes after the committee delayed its final vote, to get another set of legal advice.

The committee voted yesterday to get a new legal opinion on its final report, which would scrap charges, refund existing bills, not require meters in new homes, and which makes only passing mention of penalties or levies for wilfully wasteful use.

Latest: Fine Gael call for legal advice on water charge report

Last night Simon Coveney wrote to the committee saying the current wording poses problems, and could leave Ireland facing millions in fines from the EU.

He says if only ‘wilful’ wasters are punished, the State would have to prove the motives of the household.

Minister Coveney also says a possible penalty for using excess water is not good enough, because if it is a flat-rate penalty, there is no incentive for high users to cut back.

He aslso said that not having mandatory meters in new homes means it will be difficult to identify wasteful users to begin with, and that puts us on a collision course with Europe.

The Minister says he is not trying to interfere, but rather put concerns on the record.

More on this topic

Book reveals former finance minister opposed water meters but was overruled by Enda KennyBook reveals former finance minister opposed water meters but was overruled by Enda Kenny

Government accused of delaying potential referendum on public ownership of waterGovernment accused of delaying potential referendum on public ownership of water

Water referendum must 'not be rushed', says Eoghan Murphy Water referendum must 'not be rushed', says Eoghan Murphy

C&AG remit may cover water - Vote neededC&AG remit may cover water - Vote needed


More in this Section

Deal creating EU border in Irish Sea closerDeal creating EU border in Irish Sea closer

The key players in the UK’s hunt for a Brexit dealThe key players in the UK’s hunt for a Brexit deal

Talk of Northern Ireland-only backstop off the mark – Arlene FosterTalk of Northern Ireland-only backstop off the mark – Arlene Foster

Limerick IT and Athlone IT forming consortium to develop Technological UniversityLimerick IT and Athlone IT forming consortium to develop Technological University


Lifestyle

We know porridge is one of the best ways to start the day but being virtuous day in, day out can be boring.The Shape I'm In: Food blogger Indy Power

Sheila O’Flanagan can’t pin down an exact number of books she has written.First lady of fiction: Sheila O'Flanagan is happy to be accessible

This might not be the most entertaining topic but it is that time of year when colds, flus and nasty bugs enter classrooms and homes.Mum's the Word: Top tips for keeping nasty bugs and illnesses at bay

Laura Whalen is a Munster-based dollmaker and mother-of-five, and the founder of the Bábóg project, a community crafting drive to make a commemorative doll for all the babies born in Irish mother and baby homes.Made in Munster: Meet the West Cork dollmaker who uses bio-degradable materials for her craft

More From The Irish Examiner