Water charges are “unlikely” to be reintroduced, the leader of Fianna Fáil has declared, ahead of a special commission deciding on the future of water services and how they should be funded.
Micheál Martin also confirmed that his party will not back a Sinn Féin motion in the Dáil next week to abolish water charges, even though Fianna Fáil ultimately wants to scrap bills for households.
He outlined how his party had effectively delivered the end to water charges after bills were frozen under the confidence and supply deal with the Fine Gael-minority government.
A government-appointed commission on water charges is due to produce a report on the future of managing services in November, after which an Oireachtas committee will examine the issue and the Dáil may act on it.
Mr Martin said charges, currently frozen, were ultimately unlikely to be reintroduced.
He said no Dáil motion could scrap water charges and that only a Dáil money bill could abolish bills.
He said the ‘confidence and supply’ deal with Fine Gael had “essentially got rid” of water charges.
“The only way that water charges can be reintroduced is via legislation by this Dáil and that is unlikely given the configuration of parties within the Dáil,” he said.
More than 90 TDs were elected to the Dáil this year on promises to reform or abolish charges.
Fianna Fáil, which supported the Government on the basis that bills were frozen, has told the commission charges should be abolished. The party rejects claims it has done a U-turn, in the event of a snap election being called.
Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil would remain “faithful” to the commission and there would not have been a government without it being set up.
However, he agreed that, regardless of the outcome of the commission, water charges were “unlikely” to be reintroduced.
Mr Martin was asked whether he thought the charges would be abolished.
“I do, but there are other wider issues besides just charges which fall to be considered,” he said.
He accused Sinn Féin, who are set to introduce a bill to scrap charges in the Dáil next week, of “playacting” in relation to their motion.
“Motions on their own cannot get rid of charges, only legislation can,” he said.
Sinn Féin says its motion presents Fianna Fáil with an opportunity to stop “flip-flopping” on the issue.
MEP Lynn Boylan said: “The reality is we do not have to wait nine months for a so-called expert commission to recommend the scrapping of water charges.
“The Dáil can vote in favour of abolition as early as next week and, in doing so, deliver what people actually voted for at the general election in February.
“They didn’t vote for a suspension of water charges. People want to see them scrapped.”
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