THE Oireachtas Water Committee report has been described as a “victory” for campaigners who had protested against charges.
The report recommends ending all water charges, including the “excessive use” charge, as well as refunds to people who have already paid charges and the stopping of water meter installations in new homes.
Cork North Central TD Mick Barry, a member of the Solidarity party, said the report will add support for a referendum to keep water in public ownership and lead to increased subsidies to group water schemes.
Deputy Barry said: “After three years campaigning, after hundreds of thousands marching, after a million households not paying, this represents an important victory for the anti-water charges movement.”
However, uncertainty remains over whether the recommendations will become legislation and Minister Simon Coveney could trigger an election by ignoring the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee.
Minister Coveney accused Fianna Fáil of making changes to an agreement the parties made last week.
His stance has sparked a row between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as an agreement had been in place for Fine Gael to implement the recommendations of the committee, even if they didn’t agree with them.
“The agreement was fundamentally undermined by Fianna Fáil. This isn’t water charges by the front door or by the back door. The legal advice is that Ireland has no derogation,” said Minister Coveney.
He also engaged in a war of words on Twitter with Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen. The minister tweeted that the Committee had made progress on “getting an outcome we can stand over and support”. Deputy Cowen replied: “Problem for Fine Gael spin is that their own minister confirmed last week that a fair deal was done.”
Minister Coveney replied that Fianna Fáil had “fundamentally undermined that deal”.
Deputy Cowen said Fine Gael had broken their promise: “Attempts to claim that there was no deal are undermined by the fact that the Fine Gael minister responsible for water rushed to claim credit for its negotiation last Thursday on social media when he congratulated the Fine Gael negotiating team and described it as ‘an outcome we can stand over and support’. These dishonest claims of no deal are also undermined by the fact that the details of the deal were widely leaked to the media and no one from Fine Gael expressed an objection.”
Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin urged Minister Coveney to stand by the recommendations. “Should the Minister think of going back on his word, the rally on Saturday organised by Right2Water will remind him that the Irish people will hold him and his Government to account,” he said.