Labour will not be bound to FG’s water targets, says Gilmore

Hogan has said all outstanding issues will be settled ‘within ten days’

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said Labour will not be bound by deadlines on agreement for water charges set by Fine Gael. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said Labour will not be bound by deadlines on agreement for water charges set by Fine Gael. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thu, Apr 24, 2014, 14:14

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said Labour will not be bound by deadlines on agreement for water charges set by Fine Gael, after Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said all outstanding issues will be settled within ten days.

Mr Hogan this week said the remaining details on water charges will be outlined following a Cabinet meeting next week, adding: “The Taoiseach and the Government are going to be honest with the Irish people in the run up to the first electoral contest on May 23rd.”

However, speaking in Dublin this morning, Mr Gilmore said “we are not going to be bound by any timetable.”

“We are going to insist on getting it right,” the Tánaiste said at a press conference to mark Labour MEP Emer Costello handing in her nomination papers for the Dublin constituency.

“It’s a question of getting it right and we have to ensure we deal with the issue of households that won’t be metered, deal with the issue of ability to pay.

“I can’t say when we will do that but as with every other issue that we have addressed in the lifetime of this Government, we will insist on getting it right.”

Mr Gilmore added that water charges should “have been dealt with months ago”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio this morning, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said a decision had not yet been made on water charge concessions for those on lower incomes, those with disabilities or for family carers

Ms Burton said the issue would be discussed at next week’s Cabinet meeting.

Noting that discussions on the Coalition’s programme for government had made reference to a “generous” free water allowance, the Minister said she was particularly concerned that older people, those with a disability and carers be protected.

She said there were a “number of ways” of addressing the issue.

She said she would not make a declaration on the likely amount of charges or the allowance because that had not been discussed and signed off by the Government.

“Fine Gael, I suppose, are concerned very much with people in business and so on. I’m the Minister for Social Protection so I have a function in the cabinet to seek to protect people who are, for one reason or another, vulnerable and on very low incomes.”

The Labour Party, she said, had been “quite disappointed” at the progress made, in particular in relation to the installation of meters.

The party wanted Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to come back to us and talk to it about how the situation in relation to metering could be addressed.

Mr Hogan said yesterday the Government will be making a decision in relation to water charges within 10 days.

He denied the utility company, Irish Water, would need more staff to install infrastructure or that there would be a surfeit of employees working in former water divisions of local authorities.