Water charges will not be reintroduced, Taoiseach says

Decision to scrap charges will not be reversed despite OECD advice – Ryan

Dublin, August 29th, 2015: The introduction of water charges was met with massive public protests and a large-scale campaign of refusal to pay bills issued by Irish Water. File photograph: Eric Luke

Dublin, August 29th, 2015: The introduction of water charges was met with massive public protests and a large-scale campaign of refusal to pay bills issued by Irish Water. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has ruled out any revisiting of the issue of water charges, despite a call for their reintroduction in a review of Ireland’s environmental record, saying: “We won’t be going back to that, we won’t be introducing water charges.”

It echoes comments from Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan who told RTÉ the Government would stick to the decision to scrap the charges despite the report.

The attempted introduction of domestic water charges was one of the most contentious issues of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government during the austerity years, prompting massive public backlash.

In a major report published on Monday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) called for the reintroduction of water charges in Ireland, alongside increased carbon taxes and higher waste charges.

Commenting on the report, the Green Party leader ruled out any reintroduction of water charges. “It’s a very good OECD report, it backs up a lot of what we’re doing, what we plan to do in Government, but we will not be going back to the water charges issue,” Mr Ryan said.

“The OECD, that is their position, but the political system in Ireland spent a lot of time on this. We came to a, what I think is, an appropriate conclusion so we will stick to that,” he said.

Public protests

The introduction of water charges was met with massive public protests in 2014 and a large-scale campaign of refusal to pay bills issued by Irish Water.

Following sustained opposition, the charges were suspended by the Fine Gael minority government in 2016, as part of a confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil.

A subsequent all-party Oireachtas committee agreed that the charges be scrapped, but that households using excess water above a certain level would face some charges. Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Ryan told RTÉ the Government would stick to the plan agreed by the committee.

In the 10-yearly review of Ireland’s environmental record, the OECD called for bolder climate action from the State to tackle rising emissions.

The OECD warned that the State’s carbon emissions, waste generation and agriculture-caused pollution all rose with strong economic growth prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will do so again.

Despite international pledges made by the State to cut CO2 emissions by 51 per cent by 2030, Ireland will fail to meet its obligations unless the link between growth and emissions is cut, the Paris-based body said.

Besides higher carbon taxes, home water charges and waste levies, motoring taxes should shift away from charges on fuel to road charges to cut down on travel and encourage use of public transport, the report also said.