Cantillon: Water charge arguments will run and run

Legal opinion given to Irish Water presents a challenge to Fianna Fáil’s stance on levies

Water leak: Counsel given to  Irish Water parent Ervia argues there is no legal route back to the practice of not charging for water

Water leak: Counsel given to Irish Water parent Ervia argues there is no legal route back to the practice of not charging for water

 

After the poetry of 1916 commemorations, the prose of quotidian politics. More precisely, the listless prose of the EU water framework directive. Not again, you may say. Oh yes.

As the meandering talks on the formation of the next government resume, a legal opinion for Irish Water parent Ervia argues there is no legal route back to the practice of not charging for water. The very imposition of the tax quashes a “very limited” exemption from the directive, say senior counsel Garrett Simons and Michael M Collins.

“The benefit of the derogation has been lost for all time, and cannot be revived by seeking to reverse the decision to introduce charges.”

This presents a challenge to Fianna Fáil, which was in government in 2010 when water charges were embraced in the troika deal. But that did not stop its campaign to suspend the tax in the February election.

Some say suspension is the price Fianna Fáil will demand to support a minority government led by Fine Gael, which introduced the regime and cannot credibly renouce it.

Political matter

“We do not believe there is any basis for concluding from the directive that any future Irish government is tied to water charges. In fact, we believe it is entirely possible for the next government to suspend water charges and invest in our water infrastructure.”

Political beliefs are all very well, but the legal question raised by the halt to the established practice of not charging for water is not confronted. There isn’t a person in the land with a burning devotion this tax – or any other – but the law is the law. There will be more on this.

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