Leo Varadkar backs Simon Coveney's water stance

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has backed Housing Minister Simon Coveney in refusing to consider illegal legislation in relation to water charges.

Leo Varadkar backs Simon Coveney's water stance

Leaders’ Questions yesterday were dominated by comments made by Mr Coveney to the Irish Examiner on Wednesday in which he said he would defy the wishes of the Oireachtas Water committee.

Mr Coveney said he would only consider legislation that complies with advice from the Attorney General and does not expose the State to fines from Europe.

Mr Varadkar said: “I very much want to echo the words of the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, and stand by what he has said and has made clear throughout this process, that Fine Gael and this Government will not bring forward legislation that we know to be contrary to European law.”

Responding to questions from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, Mr Varadkar defended his party’s stance in the water charges row.

“I want to ask one simple question and I would like an answer to it,” he said. “Is Deputy McDonald seriously suggesting that a minister of this Government or any government should be forced to legislate for something that the Attorney General has advised them is contrary to European law and European treaties?”

In response to Mr Murphy, Mr Varadkar took aim at Fianna Fáil.

“I congratulate Deputy Paul Murphy on one enormous success, though not on the role he has played in the campaign against water charges,” Mr Varadkar told the Dáil.

“I congratulate him on the role he has played in reducing Fianna Fáil to what it is now. The party of Lemass, which was once proud to stand up for things and would do the right things by the Irish people, now determines its policy on water solely out of fear of Deputy Murphy and of Sinn Féin.”

At an event earlier in Dublin, Mr Varadkar played down the chances of a general election.

“But one thing I’m very confident of is we’re not going to have a general election on the issue of water, a general election would not solve being at an overall majority, and I don’t think that’s a possibility,” he said.

At the same event, Health Minister Simon Harris said the previous 24 hours had shown Fianna Fáil as having sided with Sinn Fein and the “hard left”.

“What’s after happening in last 24 hours is very concerning,” said Mr Harris. “I think the mask has slipped with Fianna Fáil. After working so hard over last number of years to build up an air of respectability and responsibility they’ve now sided with Sinn Féin and the hard left. The Fine Gael party has been very willing to compromise.

“But whatever we arrive at must be compliant with EU law. I would ask the Fianna Fáil party to pull back from the brink on this. I quite frankly believe the Irish public are sick and tired of politicians squabbling about Irish water, to stop being tribal.”

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