Update 11.53am: Former Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly today described the water charges issue as a “complete and utter farce”.
The Labour Party TD for Tipperary said there was a predetermined outcome to the talks, and that "the whole foundation on this committee is a joke".
He told Today with Sean O'Rourke that the proposals do not meet EU law and it was guaranteed that the State would eventually have to pay massive fines.
Mr Kelly said working people who pay taxes, through income tax, are “getting screwed again” and will end up paying for everyone else.
In addition, he said, business people and those with septic tanks will pay “on the double”.
Mr Kelly said from an environmental and investment point of view we “need to wake up to what's coming down the road” and asked where funding for water is going to come from after this year.
He said he believed the majority of people understood the need to pay for water.
Fine Gael is threatening to oppose recommendations on water charges unless a report specifically provides for an “excessive usage” charge and penalises households for wasting water, writes Juno McEnroe.
A fresh row over an Oireachtas Committee’s recommendations on the future of funding water services is again threatening to destabilise the Government’s deal with Fianna Fáil.
Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen reminded Fine Gael publicly that, under the terms of the confidence and supply agreement, they had to implement the report — even if the party opposed it.
Water charges are currently frozen and a Dáil vote will decide their future once the report is finished.
A draft copy of the report angered Fine Gael members, as its suggests water charging be “discontinued”.
The party wants this opening line replaced and for the recommendations to say that normal usage can be funded through taxation but that excessive usage is clearly distinguished. However, Fine Gael lost their amendment by 11 votes to seven at committee yesterday.
Moreover, the party has concerns that normal usage would be removed, in a change that could be interpreted that the State was responsible for paying for all water use.
Fine Gael TDs and Fianna Fáil TDs both outlined their positions in the standoff yesterday.
Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell said the report’s recommendations and subsequent position adopted by the government on water charges had to comply with EU law or Ireland would face huge fines.
“The Government cannot stand over a report that does not meaningfully seek to ensure that Ireland meet its EU obligations,” he said.
However, Mr Cowen said he was “baffled” by Fine Gael hardening its position and suggested it may be “internal” party politics at play.
Mr Cowen said there was a provision on future penalties in the report to deal with “willful wastage” of water.
He also said Fianna Fáil would not support Fine Gael plans whereby penalties are graduated and users face higher fines the more they use above a certain limit.
Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said Fine Gael had tried to “unwind” the draft report and had clearly “oversold” last week’s negotiations.
Fine Gael sources conceded the row was “not a deal breaker” but that a lot could hang on today’s further committee negotiations, where the issue of waste of water and metering is due to be hammered out.
Meanwhile, anti-water charge campaigners have claimed victory in defeating the “failed” charging regime and say up to €1bn went down the drain in wasted costs on water.
Right2Water’s Brendan Ogle though said there was still a battle to ensure activists are not jailed in upcoming prosecutions for protesting water charges.
Activists oppose suggestions for apartments to be bulk-metered and for new builds to be fitted with devices automatically.
Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said this could lead to the reintroduction of water charges by the back door.
Mr Ogle said €500m had been spent on domestic water meters and almost another half-billion had gone on Irish Water.
This story first appeared in the
Read More: Irish Examiner.