Fine Gael councillors want views heard on water charges

Grassroots Fine Gael councillors have insisted their views on the future of water charges must be given attention before any decision is taken on how to tackle the controversy.

Joe O'Reilly: Senator has joined list of politicians who favour refunds for water charges. Picture: Lorraine Teevan

The situation was outlined to TDs and senators at a meeting held behind closed doors, during which senator Joe O’Reilly added his name to a growing list of politicians who now favour refunds.

Speaking at Fine Gael’s weekly parliamentary party meeting, a number of TDs said councillors have been in touch to stress they want the six Fine Gael TDs on the 20-person Dáil water committee to hear their views.

The committee has been tasked with recommending what to do with water charges before a Dáil vote on the issue next March.

While Fine Gael’s six committee members are officially allowed express their own opinion, a growing number of councillors are concerned any negative decision could have implications for their positions.

During the same discussion, committee member Alan Farrell suggested all party members should write to him and his five colleagues on the cross-party group to outline their positions on the issue.

Mr O’Reilly said he is in favour of giving people who have already paid their water charges refunds in a bid to end the controversy,

The parliamentary party meeting heard Mr O’Reilly and TDs Fergus O’Dowd and Tony McLoughlin are to form a new Brexit cross- border group to interact with parties in North over the issue.

The three Fine Gael members met with officials from the UUP, SDLP, and Alliance Party earlier this week, and are due to hold further talks with Sinn Féin in the coming month. While meetings with the DUP have been sought, none have been arranged to date.

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