Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted the Government is not making fools of people who have paid their water charges — despite putting a decision on whether to issue refunds on the long finger.

As calls were made last night for €978m in extra tax income this year to be used to provide refunds, Mr Kenny said the Government will not make any decision until next March.

Questioned on whether he is making “fools” of people who have paid some or all of their charges to date and that available money will not be used to refund them, Mr Kenny insisted this is not the case.

“I am not,” he said last night in New York.

The comment came as Housing Minister Simon Coveney claimed the Government would be treating those who paid the charges like fools if they were given their money back.

The move is being sought by a number of Fine Gael TDs, the Independent Alliance, Sinn Féin, Labour, the Greens and AAA-PBP, while Fianna Fáil is seeking a cost-benefit analysis of the issue.

However, Mr Coveney said “we should not make a fool of them [payers] by simply ignoring the fact lots of people didn’t pay while they did,” adding the money has already been spent on water infrastructure.

The position was repeated by Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell who said someone could not drink a “glass of wine” before returning to a shop “the next day and asking for my money back”.

However, responding to Department of Finance confirmation that the 2016 tax take is already €978m above target, Labour housing spokesperson Jan O Sullivan said the money must now be partly used for refunds.

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