Cabinet to hold two ‘special meetings’ on new water charges
Meetings will take place before the announcement of new package tomorrow
Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD speaks to reporters at Government Buildings this morning before a Cabinet meeting. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Gardaí attempt to remove a protestor from the bonnet of Enda Kenny’s car as it arrives at the Sligo Park Hotel. Photograph: James Connolly/PicSell
There will be two special Cabinet meetings to discuss water charges before the new regime is announced tomorrow afternoon.
The first meeting will take place at 7.30am tomorrow with the second scheduled for 1pm, ahead of the announcement of the fresh charges package which is expected at 3pm.
The decision to hold two special Cabinet meetings emerged at the end of a four-hour Cabinet meeting today during which the new charging structure, and the need for additional security for Ministers was discussed.
Under the new scheme households will not be charged for water until after Christmas. Under the original plan, charges were due to start last month, with the bills due at the end of January.
The new system is expected to mean an effective annual charge of less than €200 per household.
This model is based on two rates. The first rate of €176 a year will be for a single-adult household and the second €278 rate for a household of two adults or more.
Every household that registers with Irish Water and gives details to the Department of Social Protection will be entitled to an annual rebate of about €100, it is understood.
When the universal allowance is taken into account, it will mean households with two children will pay less than €200 a year and single households will pay under €100.The water charges cap will also be in place until at least 2018.
Earlier Ministers criticised the approach being taken by some people involved in recent protests over water charges.
The “vast majority” of anti-water charges protesters were being “led by forces who have no regard for democracy”, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan ahead of a Cabinet meeting to discuss a new water-charging regime.
“The events of the last few days have been outside of the law. They have been unacceptable. I believe that normal people engaged in the democratic process will recognise that,” he said.
“Threats of intimidation, physical violence, entrapment, unlawful detention . . . are unacceptable in any democracy.”
Asked if he accepted the vast majority of protesters were peaceful he said: “That’s true. However the vast majority of protesters appear to be led by forces who have no regard for democracy, whose sole role and function is to destabilise the Government”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said protesters in Sligo last night showed “scant regard” for the safety of women and children.
Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting Mr Kenny said the organisers of the protest had given their word to gardaí that they would not “carry on the way they did” or block the road.
The Taoiseach said: “Democracy is for everybody. Certainly in Sligo last night they showed scant regard for women or children who were there.”
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who was heckled by one protester as he went into Government Buildings, said the treatment of Tánaiste Joan Burton by some anti-water charges protesters was “unacceptable”.
The revised water charges regime will mean the Government can “bring reasonable people with us”, said Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly this morning.
“I think it’s a very good package. We’ve listened to the people. A lot of mistakes were made; I’ve been very open about that,” he said. “It’s time to put the package to the people which I believe will bring reasonable people with us.”
Asked if there was a sense of disappointment in Government that the initial amount of money it hoped to raise could not be brought in, Mr Kelly said: “No, I think you’ll see tomorrow that we’ll outline a comprehensive plan to deal with that issue.” Mr Flanagan said the revised package would be “fair”.
Mr Kelly said establishing Irish Water was not a mistake but mistakes were made in relation to charges and other issues.