Taoiseach repeats meters stance


Taoiseach Enda Kenny today repeated that while there would be no charge for the installation of water meters, somebody would have to pay for them.

"The Government has set up an implementation group, which will report to the Minister for the Environment in respect of the nature and range of what is involved here," he said amid heckling at a Border Midlands and West event in Roscommon

"Obviously when you provide water meters somebody has to pay for them. We've made absolutely no decision about this. Any charge will . . . be the absolute minimum because of the difficulties that are involved here," Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach said some 2,000 jobs would be created through the installation of water meters in the State, and that the Government would consider setting up a single State water agency in discussions tomorrow.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton said the Government was awaiting proposals on metering from the Department of the Environment.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said no formal decision had been taken yet over who would take over the running of the State's water and that it would be "premature" to be speculating what costs would be for consumers.

"I see meters as the friend of the householder and friend of business as they'll prevent people from paying for water that's wasted," he told RTÉ.

In a statement, Fianna Fáil Environment spokesman Niall Collins said the water meters issue was emerging as the "latest fiasco" at the Department of the Environment.

"The notion that the Government would force households to pay hundreds of euro up-front for the privilege of then charging them further for their water use is ludicrous," he said.

"The lack of any clear answer from Ministers over the last 24 hours on the question of whether or not households will be asked to pay for a water meter proves one thing. This Government has no meaningful strategy on water reform."

Mr Kenny’s comments have contradicted statements made yesterday by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and the Department of the Environment.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment last night said both the cost of buying and installing water meters would be passed on to the households and not paid for by the exchequer.

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, Mr Gilmore commented: “No decision has yet been made on how water meters are to be paid for.”

Elsewhere, fresh threats of a protest similar to the household charge boycott have been made over Government plans to charge people for water meters.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said the public will not stand for the charge - believed to be around €300 - on top of future water charges.

“People understand that these combined taxes will quickly go to €1,000 and beyond,” said Mr Higgins. “They simply cannot afford it. It’s a further destruction of the potential in the economy, intensifying austerity and creating more economic problems.

“People are absolutely right to oppose it and the campaign will intensify.”

The Dublin West TD said the measures represented another step in Fine Gael and Labour’s “disastrous austerity policy”, which he described as identical to that of Fianna Fáil and the Greens.

“There has been and there is an ongoing and massive boycott against the home tax,” added Mr Higgins. “The determination of ordinary people to resist these taxes would be further intensified as a result of the announcement that water meters and water charges are just around the corner.”

About a million homes will have to have water meters installed by the end of next year if the Government is to introduce water charges in time for 2014 - as agreed under the European Commission, IMF and European Central bailout deal.

Mr Higgins argued that rather than save water, the charges will pave the way for the privatisation of Ireland’s water supply.

Hundreds of anti-austerity protesters managed to break through Garda barricades at the campus and made their way to the entrance of the building where the conference was being held. But Mr Higgins said the media ignored the 5,000-strong peaceful march through the city centre.

Additional reporting: PA