Report on water charges reignites debate in Ireland

Report on water charges reignites debate in Ireland

A commission on water charges set up by the coalition government has said the charges should be retained but with an increased allowance for domestic water use. Under its proposals, the commission says the “vast majority” of people should no longer have to pay water charges. The final report of the Expert Commission on Domestic Public Water Services, which was established in June by then minister for the environment Simon Coveney, was published last week. The commission questions the rollout of water meters, which cost more than 500 million euro to install, and says that a referendum enshriningIrish Water in public ownership should be considered. The final report says normal water usage for households should be paid through general taxation, with a charge being levied for “wasteful” usage. Following a series of giant protests, water charges were suspended by the new government in March for a period of nine months pending the completion of the expert group’s report. Its issuance has sparked new tensions on the issue. Anti-water protesters should ‘polish their protest boots’ and get ready to start campaigning after Christmas, Anti Austerity Alliance People Before Profit TD Mick Barry said.

Mr Barry also said that there should be an amnesty for people who have not paid water charges and a refund for those who did. Waste should be tackled, but not by way of water charges, he said. He also called on the public ‘to put enormous pressure’ on Fianna Fail public representatives as the political party’s support will be essential to deciding the Fine Gael-led government’s plans on water charges.

Fine Gael is said to be divided on whether to refund the households who paid the levies. or to focus on pursuing those who did not pay. Finance Minister Michael Noonan this week told fellow Fine Gael TDs who are pressing for refunds that the primary objective of the party should be to get the “dead cat” of water charges off the agenda before a general election takes place. He told a meeting of Fine Gael’s parliamentary party that its position on water charges had cost the party votes and seats at the last election, and it was “entirely in our interest” to kill off the debate. The renewal of hostilities over the hugely unpopular ‘water tax’ has seen conformations in the media. In particular, radio show presenter Pat Kenny clashed aggressively with Sinn Fein TD Eoin O’Broin during a heated debate on the Universal Social Charge after Mr O Broin said that charge should be used to pay for water services. During a debate with the Sinn Fein TD on his morning radio show, Pat Kenny questioned why Mr O Broin would advocate keeping a charge which “gives half people’s hard-earned money to Michael Noonan”.”You’re supposed to be the working man’s friend and yet you want to keep the regime where half of what you pay goes to the Revenue.” Mr O Broin’s responded by referring to the inflated salaries paid to Ireland’s pro-establishment broadcasters when he said” “I would imagine I spend a lot more time with ordinary, average income workers than you do, Pat”.The comment caused Kenny to audibly lose his temper and repeatedly condemn what he said was “a cheap shot”.

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