SOLIDARITY TD for Cork North Central Mick Barry has accused Fianna Fáil of "a sellout" on water charges, but Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has insisted that only people abusing water will be charged under the new scheme agreed yesterday.
Following legal advice, Fianna Fáil agreed to back Fine Gael's plans for excessive use charges for households using 1.7 times an average use allowance to be set by the Commission on Energy Regulation, and for water meters to be required in newly built homes.
Mr Martin said that this was a vindication of his party's position, as 92% of people would not be facing charges.
"The vast majority of households will no longer face water charges but those who wilfully and excessively abuse will be fined.
"Many in the media, and on the hard left of Irish politics, have sought to claim that today's report fails to deliver what Fianna Fáil sought," he said, speaking on the Oireachtas Committee on Water's report which was finalised yesterday.
"The following questions should be asked of them: have charges been eliminated for most households, will regular bills for water stop coming through people's letterboxes, and have we put in place a system that ensures Ireland meets its European obligations?" he added.
Mr Barry said that Fianna Fáil had gone from securing almost all of the public's demands last week to joining forces with Fine Gael this week and building a backdoor for water charges.
"Fianna Fáil went back on its word to allow metering of new houses and apartments. Fianna Fáil went back on its word to allow an excessive use charge which is a back door for water charges. And Fianna Fáil went back on its word to set the bar for excessive use at a lower rate than appeared likely last week," he said.
He said that the proposed threshold is particularly unfair on large households and that the danger exists that the threshold can be lowered under right-wing governments and that over time more households can be dragged into the net.
He also predicted that this result will provoke a response from the anti-water charges movement, bringing them back onto the streets to oppose the new regime.