Committee gets four more weeks to resolve water charges row

Sinn Féin claims Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael ‘kicking can down the road’ with Dáil vote

A demonstrator at a anti-water charges protest last year. Paul Murphy TD said: ‘We have enough evidence to decide to get rid of water charges once and for all.’ Photograph: Caroline Quinn/AFP/Getty Images

A demonstrator at a anti-water charges protest last year. Paul Murphy TD said: ‘We have enough evidence to decide to get rid of water charges once and for all.’ Photograph: Caroline Quinn/AFP/Getty Images

 

A move to allow the special Oireachtas committee on water four extra weeks to resolve a row over charges has been accepted in the Dáil by 90 votes to 37.

Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit group expressed their opposition to the move. But Fianna Fáil said the committee was awaiting legal advice on the 2007 Water Services Act to resolve the dispute around how to deal with excessive water usage.

The committee was due to report this month on its deliberations on the future funding of domestic water services.

Sinn Féin local government spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said there was no reason to delay the committee’s work. “We could have finished this week. We should have finished this week.”

He said “this is just kicking the can down the road because we can’t get agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. So we’re fundamentally opposed.”

AAA-PBP TD Paul Murphy said: “We should be having a debate [in the Dáil] today and rather than postpone the deadline further for the water committee.”

“We’ve had over 50 hours of discussion in committee. We’ve had years of discussion in society. We’ve had a general election for it, an important issue. We have enough evidence to decide to get rid of water charges once and for all.”

He said people were rightly concerned that “it’s an opportunity to create space for some kind of back deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil”.

Substantial progress

Fianna Fáil’s John Lahart said however the committee was making substantial progress in a number of areas. These included public ownership, public engagement and transparency and conservation measures.

He said: “We are awaiting the advice of the independent legal adviser to the Oireachtas specifically in regard to the 2007 (Water Services) Act.”

In a dispute on the issue of excessive usage, Fine Gael and Labour said householders using excessive water should be charged.

Fianna Fáil wants penalties to be imposed in line with the Water Services Act, which provides for prosecution and a fine. Chairman of the committee Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh said both normal and excessive usage should be determined by the Commission for Energy Regulation.