Water charges will not force general election, says Kenny

Taoiseach plays down potential of water charges to break agreement with Fianna Fáil

A number of Fine Gael TDs have voiced concern for those who paid water charges and who seemingly have no comeback

The uncertainty over future water charges will not collapse the Government or force a general election, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

In the strongest indication to date that Fine Gael will not make the continuation of water charges a make-or-break issue for the minority administration, Mr Kenny played down their potential to break the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil which props up the Government.

"Do I think it will bring the Government down? No I don't," the Taoiseach said. "What I do believe is that Irish Water as a single entity is getting on with its work in terms of procurement, in terms of the real advances that are now being made in the supply and treatment of water, but also in respect of waste water . . . In 2017 we cannot continue to have raw sewage being pumped into rivers and the sea at 42 places."

In an end-of-year interview, Mr Kenny indicated that the final decision on water charges could be for the Oireachtas after an all-party committee, chaired by Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, makes its recommendations.


The committee has been asked to examine a report by an expert commission which recommended that domestic users should not be levied a separate charge for water unless there was excessive use.


The Taoiseach declined to give “a verdict” on what might transpire, saying he would “prefer to let the committee make its recommendation”.

“If I say anything else people will accuse me of doing one thing or another for those who paid and those who didn’t. I take the remark made by the commission that those who paid shouldn’t be treated any differently than those who didn’t . . . ,” he said.

“The argument is that you would retain Irish Water as a publicly-owned utility and entity. My party had a very clear view that you should have a national entity, you should have a metering programme, and that you should pay a fair charge in excess of a generous allowance.

“Obviously charges have been suspended [until March this year] pending the outcome of the deliberation by the committee...Water is fundamental for the economy, for business and for human life.”

No comeback

A number of Fine Gael TDs have voiced concern at recent party meetings over the situation facing those who paid water charges who seemingly have no comeback. Some have argued the party should make it an election issue.

The Taoiseach’s comments now put him firmly in the group, including Michael Noonan, which believes the party should not force the issue to the point where an election is inevitable. Mr Noonan has told his party TDs that Fine Gael needed to get the “dead cat” of water charges off the political agenda.

The issue formed a large part of the three-page confidence and supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that facilitated the formation of the Government. However, the two major parties disagreed on the issue of water charges.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times