Fine Gael willing to offer Fianna Fáil suspension of water charges

Enda Kenny said to have offered a temporary halt to charges to end deadlock

The two parties have agreed in principle to establish an independent commission to examine the future of Irish Water

The two parties have agreed in principle to establish an independent commission to examine the future of Irish Water

 

Fine Gael is willing to offer Fianna Fáil a temporary suspension of water charges in a bid to end the political deadlock.

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny is understood to have told the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin he will pause the levies while an independent commission explores a new charging regime.

In return Mr Kenny is seeking a firm commitment to re-introduce the charges after the commission reports. The Fine Gael leader is believed to have made the offer to Mr Martin at a meeting on Saturday and sought reassurances in return.

However, Mr Martin said he could not promise their return during the 32nd Dáil due to the huge opposition.

Instead, Fianna Fail wants the commission’s conclusions to be presented to an Oireachtas committee which will debate the findings and decide the way forward.

Mr Martin and Mr Kenny had a brief discussion yesterday at the Arbour Hill 1916 commemorations. They were due to hold further talks last night ahead of a meeting of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil negotiating teams today.

Commitment

The two parties have agreed in principle to establish an independent commission to examine the future of Irish Water. Any agreement would see the terms of reference stretch to a new charging regime and Fine Gael would be eager to ensure it reported back within a certain date.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both have their parliamentary parties on standby for a meeting tonight in the event an agreement is reached today.

Both sides’ positions seemed to harden in public yesterday as Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan insisted the charges and the utility cannot be abolished.

Conclusion

Timmy Dooley

The issue of Irish Water is still the biggest policy issue dividing the parties but there are still some concerns surrounding childcare, health and housing.

The two parties are at odds over provision of career guidance counsellors, an extension of the mortgage interest relief scheme, funding for deprived areas and rural crime.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is to meet members of the Independent Alliance today in a bid to secure their support for a Fine Gael-minority government. He has offered Waterford TD John Halligan a clinical review of the 24-hour care at the regional hospital and an extension of hours.

Fine Gael is hopeful it can win the support of the six members of the Alliance, two of the five rural TDs Denis Naughten and Michael Harty as well as Michael Healy-Rae and Maureen O’Sullivan. Noel Grealish, of the rural alliance, is also said to be strongly considering supporting the party.