Ó Cuív prefers jail to paying septic tank charge
FIANNA FÁIL deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív has said he would “go to jail” rather than pay proposed new charges for inspection and maintenance of septic tanks in rural areas.
Mr Ó Cuív told The Irish Timesyesterday he had a septic tank and could afford to pay the charge, but many could not.
“There is a matter of principle here,” he said. “This represents an inequitable levy on rural dwellers.”
A European Court of Justice ruling two years ago stipulates that the Department of Environment must ensure “performance standards” and a system of monitoring and inspection for on-site waste water treatment.
Households must ensure their systems are maintained correctly, are regularly serviced, and must carry out remedial works.
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has warned that Ireland faces a €40 million EU fine in 2015, and daily fines after that, if mandatory inspections are not put in place.
Up to half a million rural dwellers could pay charges of up to €300 to comply with EU directive provisions.
Mr Ó Cuív, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency, said the funding available for waste water treatment should be shared equally between urban and rural areas.
The Galway West TD and Fianna Fáil energy spokesman made his pledge to serve time in prison rather than pay the levy at a public meeting on the septic tank issue, and on designation of Connemara as a special protection area, in Rossaveal, Co Galway, on Thursday night.
“If there is not equality between the charges that will be levied in cities and those levied on rural communities I will not accept it, and neither should rural communities,” he reiterated yesterday morning, on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s Adhmhaidincurrent affairs programme.
He said the Government would understand that such inequality was “unacceptable” when the proposal came before it. Grants would be necessary to provide for any necessary upgrades of septic tanks, he said.
Fianna Fáil Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, who is the party’s Seanad spokesman on agriculture, has also criticised the proposal.
Urban dwellers have had “billions provided to install and maintain sewerage services completely free of charge,” Mr Ó Domhnaill said yesterday.
“The reason for introducing this inspection regime is attributed to a European Court decision, but it is interesting that no such regime is imposed in the six counties of Northern Ireland,” he said.
Independent North-West MEP Marian Harkin has also urged opposition to the charges and has hosted a series of public meetings over the past month.
“The basic unfairness involved in this Government plan is emphasised by the fact that it is accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency and is reflected in all of the river basin plans, that by far the greatest polluters in the State are the local authorities,” Ms Harkin has said.
Separately, Mr Ó Cuív has also urged resistance among Connemara dwellers to designation of the area as a special protection area.
He said on Raidió na Gaeltachta that he had been reassured by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht assistant secretary that it was not intended, at present, to prevent people cutting turf as part of the designation.