Most houses will not have meters before water charges, says Gilmore
Opposition critical of Government’s handling of the issue
Workers install water meters outside houses in Fortlawn Estate near Blanchardstown, west Dublin, earlier this year. Picture Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin. Workers install water meters outside houses in Fortlawn Estate near Blanchardstown, west Dublin, earlier this year. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin.
Three out of four households will still not be metered when water charges are introduced in October, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has revealed.
“We need to have a fair way of dealing with that situation,’’ he said. “I do not think it is acceptable that you can have a charge just based on some kind of crude decision on the type of house concerned.’’
Mr Gilmore told the Dáil that water usage, as well as the size of families and their needs, would also have to be looked at. Another issue was the ability to pay the charge.
He said no decision had been made on the estimated average annual charge of €240 recommended by the Central Statistics Office. While the figure was less than the one talked about, and the Fianna Fail figure of €400, it was still very large for a family with difficulty paying it.
“The issue of ability to pay is going to have to be addressed.’’
He said all the issues involved would be considered by the Government before “a complete and comprehensive’’ decision was made on the charges regime. Various directions would then be given to the energy regulator which would inform the consultative process.
Willie O’Dea (FF) said questions relating to the charges were coming up at almost every doorstep, and it was right and proper that the public have the fullest information before next month’s elections.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (SF) asked if Mr Gilmore recalled the Labour advertisement from the last general election when the party warned that Fine Gael on its own in government would introduce an annual water charge of €238.
“Yesterday the Taoiseach confirmed the accuracy of that Labour advertisement by stating that the average water tax to be imposed on people by this Government will be €240 per annum,’’ said Mr O Caolain.
Mr Gilmore said Sinn Féin did not give a curse as to how the charges would impact on people; all it cared about was how it was going to play politically.
Mr Ó Caoláin accused Labour of trying to limit “the negative impact of having sold out in respect of the positions it held for many and abandoning voters’’.
Mr Gilmore said Sinn Féin was presiding over a regime in the North where the average amount paid in property tax and water charges was €950, adding that Mr Ó Caoláin was guilty of “partitionist hypocrisy’’.
Independent TD Joan Collins, on behalf of the Technical Group, said she was confused about what the row on the issue within the Government was about given that there was agreement on the introduction of the “new austerity tax’’.
“Does not the real issue relate to the fact that Labour wants to delay the final decision and announcement relating to water charges until after the local elections next month?
“I put it to the Tánaiste that his party is not concerned about the effect of the new tax on families, the unemployed or those with illnesses or disabilities, but rather about the impact its introduction will have on its share of the vote.’’
Mr Gilmore said his party did not need any dictation from Ms Collins on the matter. “As I stated earlier, we must address the issue of ability to pay.’’