Latest: Fine Gael thinks Ireland will be in breach of EU law after latest water charge vote

Latest: Fine Gael thinks Ireland will be in breach of EU law after latest water charge vote

Update 5.55pm: A new row has broken out over the future of water charges after Fine Gael accused other parties of backing out of a previous deal.

Last week the major parties agreed in principle to only issue fines or charges to households who use an excessive amount of water.

However, Fine Gael has now accused the other parties of voting in favour of language which suggests there will be no charge at all.

Party chairman Martin Heydon says the State will be in breach of EU law if there is no charge for excessive use.

Mr Heydon said: "We want to have a situation where those who use over and beyond a very generous amount make a contribution for that. We don't believe other taxpayers should have to pay for somebody who uses an excessive amount.

"Language is important here, and if ultimately we are going to have a charge for excess usage, then that has to be reflected in the wording of the report."

Update 4.30pm:Sinn Féin's Eoin O'Broin has said Fine Gael today tried to restore water charges through the back door.

It comes after the Oireachtas committee on water today formally voted to scrap charges, and fund water through general taxation.

The position was sealed after three votes this afternoon, where Fine Gael voted to retain up-front charges.

Mr O'Broin said: "The report as it currently stands calls for domestic water services to be funded through existing general taxation and all talk of a separate charge for excessive use, normal and abnormal use or the State being a customer of Irish Water has been defeated.

"We'll go back into commitee tomorrow at 1.30pm, we'll look at meters, we'll look at the issue of wilful wastage and we're hopeful that the report can be concluded this week."

Latest: Fine Gael thinks Ireland will be in breach of EU law after latest water charge vote

Update 4.10pm: Fine Gael has abandoned this afternoon's meetings of the committee on water charges, after losing in a series of votes earlier.

The party was defeated 14-6 in a vote to have the water system funded through general taxation.

The committee met at lunchtime today and was due to gather again this afternoon, but Fine Gael's six members have made themselves unavailable.

It is believed the party wants to take time to consider today's votes which will be reflected in final report.

Latest: Fine Gael thinks Ireland will be in breach of EU law after latest water charge vote

Earlier:Anti-water charge campaigners have claimed victory in defeating the “failed” charging regime and say up to one billion euro went down the drain in wasted costs and spending on meters, writes Irish Examiner political correspondent Juno McEnroe.

Right2Water's Brendan Ogle though said there was still a battle to ensure activists are not jailed in upcoming prosecutions for protesting and for a referendum on keeping water in public ownership.

Brendan Ogle. File photo.
Brendan Ogle. File photo.

Speaking in Dublin, he and other anti-water charge campaigners said they had a number of objections to the final negotiations and recommendations of a special Oireachtas Committee on Water.

This group is meeting today with the intention of formally recommending the end of domestic regular charges and of refunding bills to homeowners.

But some Right2Water members are opposed to draft plans to include that apartments be bulk metered and that new builds are fitted with devices.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said this could lead to the reintroduction of water charges by the back door. It was a “trojan horse”, he warned.

“This the final phase in a momentous battle,” said the Dublin TD, who is also facing serious charges for false imprisonment at an anti-water charge protest in court later this month.

Mr Ogle said €500m had been spent on installing domestic water meters and almost another half billion had gone on work through Irish Water, including on the billing system, accountants and consultants.

Some Right2Water members also disagree with the Oireachtas committee's proposed calculations for wilful wastage charge for water. The draft committee recommendations suggest any home using 1.7 times the amount for normal usage could face fines after warnings.

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