Fianna Fáil would reintroduce water charges, admits Cowen

By Elaine Loughlin, political reporter

Fianna Fáil has today confirmed it would reintroduce water charges down the line if elected to Government.

Although the party have committed to abolishing Irish Water, environment spokesman Barry Cowen said there would be a return to water charges in a number of years.

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Mr Cowen said: “We want to abolish Irish water, we want to invest in a water structure and we will invest more than is presently being invested by the existing regime".

He said road tax and local authority funds went towards funding the establishment of a “gold-plated super quango” which is not delivering on the ground.

“But yes, we accept that if you have a system that is fit for purpose, if you have system where everybody gets based on quality, based on delivery, based on need and based on leakage, if you can reach the targets then yes, there is a system whereby people can make their contribution over and above taxation.”

He said this contribution would be minimal and it would take “at least 10 years” before the water system would be up to an adequate level.

“It will be over taxation, it will be in the region of €50 or €100, I don’t know,” Mr Cowen said.

“But it will be for a Government at that time to decide on that. But only when the system is fit for purpose, only when the network is as it should be across the State.”

He said the plan would involve “abolition of Irish Water as it currently stands”.

Under Fianna Fáil’s proposals, 100 of the 700 staff currently working with Irish Water would be retained, while the remaining employees would be redeployment within local authorities or would be offered redundancies.

Speaking at Fianna Fáil’s headquarters this morning, Mr Cowen said his party would prioritise spending on services ahead of reducing taxes if the economy does not grow as quickly as is forecast.

Mr Cowen said: “We are the only party that has said in the event of the projected growth that is being talked about by all parties not materialising, that we will prioritise services over taxation.

“We do not want to see the better off becoming even better off while 1,700 children are still in emergency accommodation.

“There is a wide suite of measures that we would want to implement in Government, including the abolition of Irish Water.”

Mr Cowen said they have 71 candidates and they would be going out to try to win all of these seats.