‘Strong chance’ government talks fail, Michael Noonan says
Former FF minister says politicians will be ‘savaged’ if voters have to go to polls again
Minister for Finance and Fine Gael TD Michael Noonan has said there is a strong chance his party and Fianna Fáil will be unable to strike a deal on water charges. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.
Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Mr Noonan said the two parties were still divided on the future Irish Water, which Fianna Fáil wants to suspend domestic charges and ultimately be abolished.
“The political issue of water” was a sticking point in difficult talks, Mr Noonan said, adding that the compromises Fianna Fáil wants and the concessions Fine Gael was prepared to give did not stack up.
He said both parties had offered a compromise but neither was acceptable to the other side.
“We may not be able to settle this and I think everyone knows the consequences of that,” he said, in reference to another general election.
Talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil ended on Monday night with no progress on how long a suspension of water charges should last. They are
Senior figures on both sides are pessimistic about the chances of a deal, some 60 days after the general election, though further talks are scheduled for later.
Fine Gael has offered a temporary cessation of water charges but insists that Fianna Fáil commit to reintroducing water charges if a proposed commission recommends it.
Social Democrat co-leader Stephen Donnelly on Tuesday said the Irish Water issue should be brought back to the Dáil and decided there.
“Clearly Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have reached an impasse on Irish Water. Bring it back to where it belongs in the Dáil and decide it there,” he said. “There are 90 TDs who would vote for the abolition of water charges.”
Mr Donnelly said he accepted water was one of the key issues, but there are other more pressing issues - homelessness, waiting times for cancer patients and murder on the streets.
“One in eight Irish children is in daily poverty,” he told RTÉ Morning Ireland. “We think it is outrageous that one issue has the potential to collapse a government.”
The Social Democrats are calling for a referendum on public ownership and want a reconstituted Irish Water - a national Water Board.
There should be an end to domestic charges, he added.
“The money being raised is not being used to upgrade the system. It covers the cost of taking the money from you...Bring the issue back to where it belongs. Let’s have a Dáil vote. Table a motion.”
Former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey said “everybody would be savaged” if the government talks broke down and there is another general election.
He told Newstalk Breakfast that both parties have wasted any political capital they had. “People expect an arrangement by the weekend. If it goes beyond the weekend, the game is up for all of them.
“It will be ‘a plague on all your houses’ at this stage,” he added.
“The damage has been done. There are legacy issues - the leaked Higgins Report, they’re like a ticking grenade, the sooner there’s a government formed to deal with them, the better.
“There’s going to be price paid, it may be quite high, by which ever party blinks first.
“There’s lots of spin going on, there always is. It’s the first time I’ve seen talks played out in such a fashion
“Previously a deal was done clinically and methodically, this one is all over the place.”