Fine Gael water policy ‘backward step’, says Paudie Coffey

Suspension happening because ‘Fianna Fáil over-promised on water in last election’

Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey criticised the water Bill, which will suspend billing on domestic water charges for nine months. Photograph:  Colin Keegan

Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey criticised the water Bill, which will suspend billing on domestic water charges for nine months. Photograph: Colin Keegan

 

A Government Senator has described his own party’s legislation to suspend water charges as a “backward step” and a “classic kick to touch”.

Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey criticised the Water Services (Amendment) Bill, which will suspend billing on domestic water charges for nine months while a commission investigates a sustainable funding model for water services. “It’s a classic kick to touch and I’m saying that as a Government Senator.”

Mr Coffey said it was happening “simply because Fianna Fáil over-promised on water during the last general election”.

Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys asked if advice had been taken from the Attorney General about whether the Bill is actually legal. “They are building up a substantial debt for this country”, through penalties to the EU. “Shortly we’ll be paying more fines than interest on our debts.”

There were heated exchanges and repeated interventions during the debate on the legislation as Mr Coffey hit out at Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin over their stance on water charges.

He predicted that “either Fianna Fáil will do one of the biggest climb-downs and U-turns in the history of the State or essentially we’ll have another general election”.

Fianna Fáil Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, who rejected his claims, said the Bill “sets sets out a clear route to end failed water charges”.

She said “Ireland is €758 million worse off than it would be if it had not set up Irish Water,” she said, where €540 million was spent on metering. A further €172 million went to set up Irish Water and €46 million on running it.