‘Difficult’ to deduct €100 grant from water refunds

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it will be very difficult to deduct the €100 conservation grant from refunds due to be paid to households that paid water charges.

Mr Varadkar yesterday restated his comments that households who paid their charges can look forward to getting their refund before Christmas.

However, his comments have caused alarm and confusion within Government as to how the refunds will be financed, with some ministers refusing to hand money back from their department to contribute.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is to bring legislation in the autumn to address funding issues around Irish Water and water charges, and along with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will have to devise a mechanism to deliver on the Taoiseach’s promise.

“Now I believe it’ll be possible to do the refunds this year,” said Mr Varadkar.

“We anticipate that will start in the autumn and everybody will be refunded before Christmas.

“There may be a few cases where we run into difficulty like people who are deceased or left the country.”

Mr Varadkar has acknowledged it till be “logistically and legally very difficult”.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the issue of the refund had not been discussed in detail by Cabinet.

Ms Doherty said she has not been fully briefed on the matter but said people can look forward to refunds from September to Christmas.

However, Mr Varadkar’s plan appears to have raised the ire of independents within the Cabinet.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has said he is reluctant to give over any money from his department to help pay for water charge refunds, as promised this week by the Taoiseach.

The stance by the Independent Alliance comes as departments scramble for savings which are expected to help pay back over 1m households for the botched charging regime from the last government.

At the weekend, the government signalled that the estimated €170m in refunds would be resourced from existing funds or savings made this year. But they have yet to be identified.

Asked by the Irish Examiner

whether he would part with transport money for the refunds, Mr Ross said: “I’m certainly not going to be offering anything immediately at the moment to anybody for that.”

Nonetheless, the minister also conceded the government, as a collective, would refund people.

“But I presume if we all have to pay our fair share, we’ll all have to pay up our fair share. I’m completely behind the idea that there has to be equal treatment on that particular issue and that repayments will have to be made,” added Mr Ross.

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