Latest: Water charges 'finished' as committee moves closer to recommending water bill refunds

Update 2.20pm: Water charges are "finished" and hundreds of millions of euro has been "wasted" on a failed billing system, a Sinn Féin TD has claimed.

In dramatic developments, Oireachtas committee water charges member Eoin O'Broin has claimed that the group have agreed effectively to refund water bills, writes Juno McEnroe of the Irish Examiner.

The move means that the Dáil will be recommended to vote that almost one million homes get their water bills refunded.

Mr O'Broin said this meant that water charges were "finished". He also said a majority of members on the committee also wanted to put an end to the metering programme.

While the committee has yet to make a formal statement today or finish its report by March 13 on the future of charges, a decision to recommend the refund of bills will raise questions about the years of work, funds and the billing system which caused political chaos and saw mass protests against the country

Mr O'Broin's comments were echoed earlier by AAA-PBP TD Paul Murphy who said that the committee were on the brink of recommending that bills be refunded.

The committee has yet to decide how charges will be refunded.

"This is a victory for Irish people," declared deputy O'Broin.

Update 11.19am: Labour TD Joan Burton has said that a group of TDs working on the funding of water services may not be the ones to decide whether any cash refunds are handed out, or another method of compensation is used.

“People who in good faith paid their water charges and complied with the law – I think that that has to be recognised,” she said.

“The question then of how that might be refunded – my guess is though that the committee will probably pass on the detail of that and will ask somebody like the Commissioner for Energy Regulation.”

Update 10.25am: Sinn Féin spokesperson on water, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has said that it is “crunch time” for the committee.

Speaking ahead of the meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services this afternoon, Deputy Ó Broin said: “The key issue for the Committee always has been whether the parties will vote to abolish domestic water charges.

“Sinn Féin has been unequivocal on our position to completely abolish domestic water charges.

“The idea of an ‘excess charge’ is a Trojan horse and is being used by Fianna Fáil to get them off the hook in relation to their election promise to abolish water charges.

“The reality is that according to Irish Water’s own data household water consumption in this state is one of the lowest in the OECD. Irish citizens use an average of 123 litres per capita, compared to England where people use on average 140 litres.

“The excess charge itself could cost more to administer than what it would bring it in revenue. This would be another waste of taxpayers’ money.

“The introduction of an excess charge would also require the continuation of expensive universal metering.”

Earlier:

It is being reported that a Dáil group is supporting a proposal to refund people who paid water bills.

A report from the committee of TDs examining how to fund water services is currently being finalised.

According to the Irish Times, the group agrees people should be paid back - however it is not known whether it should be in the form of a cash payment, tax credit or some other system.


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