Water charges body chair slams left-wing politicians' stance

The chairman of the new water charges expert commission has slammed left- wing politicians’ views and also said Revenue could examine taking over collection of the levy.

Commission chairman Joe O’Toole said he favours paying household charges and furthermore, there are “bundles of money” in Ireland which can be invested in Irish Water.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, the former trade union chief also admitted the commission may collapse if an election was called at any stage during its five-month term.

His comments come ahead of Housing Minister Simon Coveney travelling to Brussels this week to outline Ireland’s plan to suspend water charges to Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

Mr O’Toole said he was a strong supporter of the ‘polluter pays’ principle, which is backed by the Fine Gael government and Brussels. But he had strong views of left-wing campaigners, who want charges scrapped and services paid for equally through general taxation.

“I find it extraordinary that people who present themselves as being left-wing politicians are opposed to things like property tax, are opposed to polluter pays, are of a view that if you have two or three cars and a swimming pool you should be paying the same water tax as somebody next door.”

Asked if the likes of AAA-PBP TD Paul Murphy was “wrong” on their stance on water charges, Mr O’Toole said: “Completely and utterly wrong on the issue, that it is fair in society that people with three cars and a swimming pool pay the same water tax as someone, a person who is barely struggling on a minimum wage.”

The former ICTU president said the commission, likely to hold hearings in the autumn, would ask Revenue to examine the collection of water charges or tying them into another.

“I will talk to Revenue, it’s rollover. There’s the property tax, the waste tax, the water tax, your television licence,” he said.

“There may well be a way that we can fold or should consider folding some of the charges together. What I would like to explore with Revenue are what are the various options.”

Asked if this included Revenue taking over the collection of charges, he said: “That may well be an option to be considered.”

Mr O’Toole said the commission could hear from protest groups and political leaders.

It will be examining what pay model to support Irish Water. One option could be to “try and convince somebody to buy an Irish Water bond”, said Mr O’Toole.

“There are bundles of money in this country at the moment trying to find a home.”


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