Fianna Fáil says grant should be deducted from water refunds

Coveney insists will not support charging measures that may breach European law

The Dáil committee examining the future of water service funding in the State is understood to be unlikely to recommend any form of charging regime.

It is also believed the majority of members are opposed to introducing a charge for excessive usage.

The group of 20 TDs had a meeting on Tuesday to try to agree the contents of its final report, which is to be sent to the Dáil in time for a vote on its findings on March 13th. It will meet again on Wednesday.

It is understood that consensus has been reached on a number of issues including returning money to those who paid their bills.


The method has not been decided, with members to examine whether Irish Water should give a cash payment, if Revenue should offer a tax credit, or whether an opt-in, opt-out system should be developed.

Fianna Fáil has insisted that people who received the water conservation grant should have that deducted from their refunds.

The party outlined its preferences at a private meeting of the committee on Tuesday and confirmed it would not support a charges regime.

This applies to excessive use of water also, but Fianna Fáil said Irish Water should be given the authority to penalise householders if it believes they are wasting water.

Homeowners who paid their charges should be refunded, but those that claimed the €100 grant should have that deduced from the final amount they receive, they argued.

The party also insisted that the decisions of the committee must be implemented by the Government, regardless of the position of the Fine Gael party.

General taxation

Fianna Fáil has stressed the provision of water services should be funded through general taxation, insisting no new tax or levy can be implied.

There has also been agreement in principle not to pursue those who did not pay their bills due to the costs attached.

It is understood that committee chairman Pádraig Ó Céidigh, an Independent Senator, held a private session with the committee last week where consensus was reached on some issues.

An agreed report will not be likely, which means some members may produce a minority report.

The Right2Water campaign, which led opposition to the water charges, will hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide its next course of action.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin both told The Irish Times they would not sign up to a report that provided for charges for excessive usage.

Mr Murphy said a decision would be taken this week on whether national demonstrations should coincide with a Dáil vote.

Water charges have been suspended until April 1st, meaning the levies will return unless action is taken by that date.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has insisted he will not support water charge measures that may breach European law.

Fine Gael is insisting proposals supported by Fianna Fáil to end the charging regime are legally unsound.

Mr Coveney said he would not implement any legislation that goes against the advice of the Attorney General, the European Commission and the legal opinion of his own department.

Excessive usage charge

A working paper circulated to committee members by Mr Ó Céidigh provides for an excessive water usage charge.

However, this has been resisted by a large number of committee members, including from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit.

The working paper also commits to refunding households which have paid their bills.

It proposes to retain domestic meters already installed and introduce a requirement for all new builds to have meters installed.

A tax credit or welfare payment will be offered to those who voluntarily take up a domestic meter.