Fianna Fáil set to support Fine Gael for three budgets

Parties agree people who have not paid Irish Water charges will be pursued

Fianna Fáil may be willing to commit to allowing Fine Gael to introduce three budgets as part of a deal to put a minority government in place.

Advisers from the two parties met on Wednesday to put the finishing touches to a deal designed to allow a Fine Gael-led minority government take office next week.

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are expected to sign off on the agreement before it goes to the two parliamentary parties for final approval.

Fianna Fáil has already proposed a midterm review of any arrangement to facilitate a Fine Gael-led minority government. This would take place in summer 2018, but party sources said they would be “open to” facilitating three budgets.


The first two budgets of the next term will be relatively tight, but EU fiscal rules will give greater leeway in a third budget.

Clarity on the number of budgets a minority government will be allowed to implement has been requested by Independent TDs who are in negotiations with Fine Gael to form a government.

It is expected a Fine Gael-led minority government will include at least three cabinet ministers from the Independent ranks as well as three ministers of state.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs were briefed on the emerging deal at parliamentary party meetings on Wednesday night. There was broad support for the outline of the deal, although some TDs in each party had reservations.

There was agreement at both meetings that people who have not paid water charges will be pursued for payment, regardless of what decisions are made about the future of Irish Water, according to both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Fine Gael sources said there has been no consideration of refunds to the 950,000 people who have paid their bills as this would only apply if the Dáil ultimately decided to abolish the charges.

“There’s no story with refunds,” one said. “It’s a suspension for nine months. Then a decision on a new regime or abolition. People who haven’t paid still owe the money plus penalties.”

‘Unprecedented and risky’

Mr Martin told the Fianna Fáil meeting it was his party’s position that people who had not paid the charges should be pursued. He said there were many mechanisms to secure the money, including attachment orders.

However, the party believes refunding householders who have paid in full would be “dangerous, unprecedented and risky for the State”.

At the Fine Gael parliamentary party there was strong support for collecting the charges from those who have not paid. Limerick TD Patrick O’Donovan asked that the threshold currently in place for attachment orders be lowered to enable the State to pursue those who had not paid.

Under the terms of the deal between the two parties, an expert commission will be established to examine funding models for a national water system along with charging and conservation incentives.

Water charges will be suspended while the commission does its work and then sends a report to an Oireachtas committee for further investigation and testimony from experts.

Following this process, the Dáil will make a decision on the future of water charges.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has strongly criticised the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil deal on water charges.