'Water charges will not be coming back', claims Fianna Fáil leader

by Niall O'Connor, Independent.ie, Nov 19, 2016

 Micheál Martin Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Micheál Martin Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Micheál Martin has claimed that water charges will not be re-introduced - just days before an independent commission produces its long-awaited report on the prospect of a charging regime.

Micheál Martin has claimed that water charges will not be re-introduced - just days before an independent commission produces its long-awaited report on the prospect of a charging regime.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, the Fianna Fáil leader said the previous regime "came into disrepute" and his party remained opposed to any return of charges.

He said that a government would not have been formed had it not been for Fianna Fáil's decision to push for the suspension of charges.

Mr Martin also rejected suggestions that he had fuelled confusion surrounding his party's stance on the issue - a view held privately by many of his own TDs.

But the decision to predict, just days before the commission produces its report, that charges will not return will open Mr Martin up to criticism.

"We said before the election we were against water charges. We didn't want water charges. We wanted to abolish water charges," the Cork South Central TD said.

"We got them suspended. I don't think they are coming back, that's my honest position. I don't think this particular regime is coming back. I don't think it's coming back, no," he added.

The report itself is due to be examined by a 20-member Oireachtas committee - one of the largest committees in the history of the State.

It is expected that the chairperson of the committee, which will sit for around three months, will be a non-party TD.

The committee will be made up of five Government TDs, four Fianna Fáil TDs, two Sinn Féin TDs, and five members of smaller parties or Independents.

Members of the commission are due to be paid €3,000 each, while chairman Kevin Duffy is being paid €7,500. Mr Duffy is also the chairman of the Public Sector Pay Commission.

The composition of the committee has been the subject of tensions in recent days.

Fine Gael is strongly of the view that a charging regime should return. Fianna Fáil, however, has taken the opposite opinion. According to Fianna Fáil's submission to the commission, a tax credit should be considered to compensate those who have paid their bills.

Mr Martin warned that a decision will have to be taken as to whether a better approach would be to pursue those who have not paid their bills.

"My view is that when the law of the land is passed, we have an obligation to obey the law of the land," he said.

"There is either two options, you either go down the route of recouping, or tax credits, for those who have paid or we go after those who haven't paid. (It's) one or the other, but it has to be one," he added.

The Fianna Fáil leader said he did not believe charges would produce a significant revenue base to fund infrastructure.

Mr Martin told this newspaper: "The last charging regime was losing money, so let's call a spade a spade.

"It is not huge money in terms of the kind of things we are talking about here."

He insisted that his party will engage constructively on issues such as conservation once the commission publishes its recommendations.

He indicated that if the commission does recommend that charges come back, Fianna Fáil may reject the proposals.

He said: "We are not bound by the recommendations. We are not going to be bound by them in advance. But we will engage constructively at committee level."

 

Source: Independent.ie, Nov 19, 2016