Finian McGrath will pay water bill to avoid ‘distraction’

Super junior minister Finian McGrath has caved in to pressure to pay his water charges bill — despite receiving advice there is no constitutional rule preventing him from being in Cabinet if he did not pay up.

The Independent Alliance TD last night did a U-turn and said that, while having doubts about Irish Water, he had decided to pay his water bill, as failing to do so would become a “distraction” to his work as minister for disabilities.

The Irish Examiner has learnt that Mr McGrath, after being briefed by Attorney General Maire Whelan as well as her advisers this week, had been told there were no legal issues preventing him being a minister if he refused to pay the charges.

However, after taking advice from his constituency teams in Dublin Bay North yesterday, the newly appointed minister said that he would pay his water charges by next Tuesday.

Finian McGrath will pay water bill to avoid ‘distraction’

He said he still had strong concerns about the way Irish Water was set up, including the affordability issues for households.

“I’m still deeply sceptical about the motives and the ability of the service to deliver,” Mr McGrath said. He said the recent Government formation deal had resulted in a “mechanism” to review the provision of water as well as the issue of charges.

This will be debated in the Dáil following the work of special commission on water charges as well their suspension for at least nine months.

Mr McGrath added: “I know that priorities must be set and I do not believe that my not paying the water charge at this stage will greatly alter the situation for Irish Water. It is clear to me that not paying the charge will become a significant distraction to other important work and I’m determined that this will not be allowed to happen. To that end, I will now regularise my situation with Irish Water and pay my charges.”

His decision comes after pressure to pay the bill came from Fine Gael Cabinet colleagues, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, as well as the fact that all other Cabinet members liable for charges have paid them.

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