Minister Catherine Byrne wants water refund

A Government junior minister who paid her water charges has said she wants her money back after an independent commission recommended ending the controversial fees system for the vast majority of households.

Minister of state for communities and drugs strategy Catherine Byrne directly contradicted senior party officials during a closed parliamentary party meeting which saw backbench TDs urge ministers not to pursue people who have so far refused to pay charges.

Speaking during the two-hour meeting which was dominated by the Irish Water situation, Ms Byrne and at least a dozen other TDs and senators said people who paid must now be refunded.

The Dublin South Central TD directly contradicted Housing Minister Simon Coveney, who said Fine Gael should pursue those who have not paid instead, by saying non-payers will continue to refuse to pay.

And in a clear split from Mr Coveney, Ms Byrne said she wants to know when she will get her money back, saying she campaigned on the issue in the last general election and convinced family members and friends to pay the fees. While she did not respond to calls from the Irish Examiner last night, several TDs confirmed the remarks.

Ms Byrne’s call for refunds took place amid similar demands from at least a dozen other Fine Gael TDs who said the refunds should range from cash to tax rebates to “gold-plated taps if necessary” to avoid a potential “never-ending” political backlash caused by taking non-payers to the courts.

One TD who declined to go on the record said any attempt to pursue non-payers, as suggested by Mr Coveney, would simply “prolong our water torture”.

A number of parliamentary party members who spoke at last night’s meeting backed Mr Coveney’s position, including Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. However, European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy and Fine Gael Seanad leader, said refunds must be considered.

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