A FF spokesperson confirmed the situation last night after Independents4Change TD Joan Collins said the party’s recent calls to abolish water charges completely will be questioned unless it supports the move.
Responding to leader Micheál Martin’s comments on Monday that Fianna Fáil has asked the independent water commission to scrap the charges, Ms Collins said if the position is genuine, the party should also be in favour of ensuring water services are not privatised.
Citing an upcoming opposition bill backed by her own group; Sinn Féin; the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People before Profit; and other left-leaning politicians, the Dublin South Central TD called on Fianna Fáil to support the bill when it comes before the Dáil next month.
“The bill [which 39 TDs have already agreed to support] will pass if it is supported by Fianna Fáil who fought the election on an anti-water charges claim. We will now see how serious their claim was. Will they support the bill, or will they hide behind the fig leaf of the commission on water charges?” she asked.
Ms Collins said the 35th Amendment of the Constitution [Water in Public Ownership] bill — which specifically calls for Government to “ensure that this resource remains in public ownership and management” — will effectively make the need for water charges obsolete.
However, in a statement to the Irish Examiner, a Fianna Fáil spokesperson said the party will not make any decision until its frontbench meets to discuss the matter in the first half of next month. The spokesperson said Fianna Fáil has “used its mandate to secure significant change in water policy” and accused Ms Collins and others of hiding behind “sloganeering” on the issue.
The comments are likely to be seen as both Fianna Fáil and left-leaning opposition TD groups battling to secure key support for their different approaches to the future of water charges and services in this country before the next election.
Speaking at a separate press conference to highlight the latest national water charges protest in Dublin on Saturday, Right2Water co-ordinator Brendan Ogle said that the political comments of this week are the “first shots in a protracted election campaign”.
“The demand — for abolition, not suspension — remains unchanged,” he said.