Water charges row comes to boiling point;FF threaten to block election of new FG Taoiseach

Water charges row comes to boiling point;FF threaten to block election of new FG Taoiseach
Noel Dempsey

Update 6.50pm: The row between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over water charges is escalating, with Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen threatening not to facilitate the election of a new Fine Gael Taoiseach.

Mr Cowen is insisting that the government bring in legislation in line with an Oireachtas committee report which recommended scrapping the charges and allowing refunds.

The Dáil must vote on the committee's recommendations within one month.

Former Minister Noel Dempsey says his stance is clear: "I believe that people should pay for their water, they should especially pay for water that they use and abuse and anything that I have seen, and this argument has been going on for the past few days, seems to be every side trying to disassociate themselves from asking people to pay for water and I think it just doesn't work."

Update 11.45am: Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen has confirmed he sent a letter to colleagues, effectively warning his party will pull the plug on government unless Fine Gael ratify recommendations to scrap water charges, writes Juno McEnroe.

The ominous email, sent to Fianna Fail TDs and senators yesterday, suggests that election of a new Taoiseach under Fine Gael will be blocked unless a report on water by a committee is implemented.

The threat relates to the latest row between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail over water charges and the impasse over the final report on their future, due to be signed off on by an Oireachtas Committee this week.

Water charges row comes to boiling point;FF threaten to block election of new FG Taoiseach

Fine Gael want an excess charge and new homes metered and argue that Fianna Fail reneged on a deal to vote on and recommend these measures for the report.

Barry Cowen emailed colleagues yesterday-from party leader Micheal Martin's office-where the party's housing and water spokesman made a fresh threat to collapse the government.

Fine Gael is close to deciding on a new leader to replace Enda Kenny, a situation where the Dáil would have to vote on and give support to the new Taoiseach. Fine Gael needs Fianna Fail's support to get the numbers for such a vote.

    Mr Cowen's email said:

    "Both of the ministers campaigning for their party's leadership would be well advised to understand that this behaviour means that Fianna Fail will require full confirmation of Fine Gael's intention to honour its commitments under the confidence and supply agreement before facilitating any potential changes to government personnel and roles.

    "We have had many problems with Fine Gael's behaviour and have already signalled to Fine Gael our extreme annoyance at breaches to the spirit and letter of the agreement. However, the handling of water in recent weeks has brought this to a head.

    "Instead of working constructively with others, Fine Gael has sought to escalate problems and has spoken through the media rather than through direct contacts.

    "On a mounting series of occasions, they have acted in clear bad faith. It has increasingly seemed that they have been trying to wreck the process rather than make a constructive contribution."

Mr Cowen confirmed to Newstalk's Ivan Yates this morning that he had sent the email, adding that if Fine Gael did not implement the water report's recommendations that there is “no point in us hanging around waiting” for a leader for Fine Gael.

Earlier: The row over water charges has escalated again.

The Sunday Independent reports Barry Cowen has written to Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators to outline the new position.

The letter, sent from Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin's office, says the party won't support the election of a new Fine Gael Taoiseach unless the 'confidence and supply' deal that's propping up the minority Government is honoured in relation to the charges.

Water charges row comes to boiling point;FF threaten to block election of new FG Taoiseach

It follows last week's collapse of a compromise at the Oireachtas committee that was tasked with recommending how we should pay for our water.

Fine Gael and Labour are claiming Ireland will face massive EU fines if some form of charge isn't introduced.

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