Leo Varadkar says Brendan Ogle wants to tax middle-class more for water

Government backbenchers still unclear about reaction to new charges regime

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said that anti-water charges campaigner Brendan Ogle wants to see middle-class people pay more tax for water.

Mr Ogle of the campaign group Right2Water yesterday told Newstalk that Irish Water would be an "expensive white elephant" and water should be funded through "progressive" taxation.

Mr Varadkar said: “He said the alternative way to raise money for infrastructure is through progressive taxes. That’s thinly-veiled left of centre code for ‘We should tax the middle class more’.

“As a member of a party I feel represents middle Ireland, why should we have to pay higher taxes for water when others will be paying nothing?”


The Minister said Mr Ogle wanted to create a “State quango” with “jobs for life, increments and unfunded public sector pensions”, after the anti-water charges campaigner said the Irish Water board should have been established in public ownership.

‘Too early to say’

Meanwhile, Government backbenchers are still unclear whether the new package of water charges will be acceptable to the public.

Several Fine Gael and Labour TDs declined to go on the record on how the new charges would go down with their constituents. “It is too early to say,’’ said a prominent Fine Gael TD.

“There is huge anger out there and, quite frankly, I cannot read the public mood on this issue so far.’’

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd, who as a minister of state before his dismissal by Taoiseach Enda Kenny was responsible for Irish Water, said he believed the new charges had “stabilised the situation’’.

“I think that people have certainty about what they will pay. That said, I think there is a significant number of people who will not pay the charges announced last week.’’

Mr O'Dowd revealed in the Dáil last week that he had threatened to resign as minister of state in a disagreement with Irish Water's chief executive John Tierney on whether the first repair to the water system should be free for consumers. Mr O'Dowd believed that the first repair should be free and eventually got his way.

His view was echoed by a number of Government backbenchers. A Labour TD said: “I cannot read this. Constituents who came into my clinic on Saturday were calm to a degree, compared to a week ago, but I do not know if they are happy with the charges.’’

‘Nothing will placate them’

A fellow party TD said: “I cannot read the public mood at all. It will take some time before this matter settles down. Quite frankly, I think my constituents are so angry with years of austerity that nothing will placate them.’’

Meanwhile, members of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) have called on the Government to abolish planned water charges “with immediate effect’’. Delegates at the union’s biennial conference in Kilkenny backed calls for it to campaign in support of the abolition of the plan.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times