U-turn ‘will mean we won’t pass EU tests’

The climbdown on water charging by the Government could rob Irish Water of its ability to adhere to EU rule enabling it to pump resources into repairing the country’s fractured supply system, the opposition has warned.

Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Barry Cowen asked whether the financial inducements offered to quell mass protests would backfire and stop the utility being able to borrow money needed for repairs without increasing the national debt.

Government confusion on the key issue was underlined when Energy Minister Alex White admitted there was a “risk” that the new arrangements could see Irish Water fall foul of EU regulations, but Tánaiste Joan Burton aid this would not happen.

Ms Burton told the Dáil she believed Irish Water would still pass the Eurostat market corporation test as an independent company capable of borrowing despite the Government concessions on pricing.

“The test is whether or not there is a stream of income in excess of 50% of the total funding which comes from funding other than the Government,” she said. “The Government’s subvention, in terms of Irish Water, is 44%.”

Mr Cowen ridiculed Ms Burton’s confidence, stating that he had been sure his car would pass the NCT, but in the end it did not.

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