Irish Water: Taxpayers’ cash ‘funds utility bid to survive’

Fianna Fáil has accused Irish Water of using taxpayers’ money in order to prevent it and other political parties from implementing the people’s will and abolishing the utility.

Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, the party’s environment spokesman, Barry Cowen, has set out his party’s priorities as it begins intensive talks with Independent TDs about forming a government.

Mr Cowen says that one of his priorities is the abolition of Irish Water and he is scathing in his criticism of the utility’s use of taxpayers’ money to fight for its survival.

“The scale of the campaign by Irish Water is beyond anything ever before undertaken by a public company in this country,” writes Mr Cowen.

“It is a campaign funded by a charge levied on the Irish people, with the direct aim of trying to prevent parties from implementing the people’s will.

“When the relevant Oireachtas committees are established, we will be seeking details of how much public money has been spent on this issue in recent weeks.”

Mr Cowen also insists the party’s opposition to Irish Water has not changed in any way, but he stops short of describing it as a red-line issue.

“When we outlined our commitment to abolish Irish Water and suspend the regressive water charge which it collects, we did so following a detailed analysis of investment in water infrastructure,” writes Mr Cowen.

“We were also very clear that legal charges should be paid. Our position today remains exactly as it was in the election.”

The party is to set out six main priorities in its discussions which begin today, with Independent TDs, about forming a government.

With no deal likely in time for Wednesday’s Dáil vote, it is now anticipated that the Independents will abstain from voting for either Enda Kenny or Micheál Martin for Taoiseach.

Therefore, focus is now shifting back to some form of a “modified grand coalition” between the country’s two biggest parties and, over the weekend, there seems to have been a shift in position from Fianna Fáil.

While the party is still seeking to maximise its vote in the Dáil, it is accepted that Mr Martin cannot catch Mr Kenny and therefore, substantive talks between the two leaders are expected to begin on Wednesday night.

In today’s Irish Examiner, Mr Cowen reveals Fianna Fáil’s six main policy positions heading into those talks.

He writes: “Our policy priorities can be summarised in six overall points: We want to strengthen economic recovery through supporting the creation of well-paid jobs and ensuring that the recovery’s impact is felt throughout the country; We want urgent action on the housing emergency.

“We want to help families and cut their costs. This includes an approach to taxation which is progressive and gives the greatest relief to those under the most pressure.

“We want action to help communities under pressure which will make them safer and stronger, with vital public services guaranteed.

“We want increased support for essential public services; and we want to deliver a substantive and lasting reform of government and politics.”

Also writing in this newspaper today, Independent Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten, who is part of the Rural Five group, says that he and his colleagues are trying to “construct a political partnership agreement, a blueprint for what this new government would do over its term of office”.

Mr Naughten writes: “This is based on the social partnership agreement model which sidelined the industrial relations turmoil of the 1980s and brought about real economic growth.

“Today, my colleagues Michael Collins TD, Michael Harty TD, Noel Grealish TD, Matty McGrath TD, and I, believe that we need a similar structure to bring about a political partnership agreement across a broad range of TDs in Dáil Éireann who are willing to step up to the plate of government.

“Such an agreement must have inputs from the political parties — Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Social Democrats, the Green Party, Labour, and a number of Independents — who are willing to assist in putting a government together.”

Analysis: 11

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