herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

FG seeks support of Independents, but water still key

Enda Kenny is seeking votes
Enda Kenny is seeking votes

Independent TDs will today argue to keep the €100 water grant for 360,000 rural families who already pay for water through group schemes or by having their own wells.

Fine Gael negotiators today begin two separate sets of talks with 11 Independent TDs, seeking as many votes as possible to have Enda Kenny elected as Taoiseach.

The Independents will scrutinise the weekend deal between the two big parties on how a minority government can be made work for three Budgets into 2018. They will also examine a separate general statement on policy matters by both parties.

Demands

Assuming this is agreeable, they will then proceed to work on their demands with the Fine Gael negotiators. These include rural development, agriculture supports, housing and mortgage distress, transport and a speeded-up delivery on rural high-speed broadband.

But two members of the Independent Alliance - Michael Fitzmaurice and Kevin 'Boxer' Moran - have confirmed that compensation for rural families funding their own water will be a crucial issue.

Both deputies said they will seek retention of the €100 payment - ostensibly a "water conservation grant" which is in limbo as water charges have been put on hold - saying it must be kept for those funding their own water supply.

Mr Fitzmaurice said 190,000 families are members of group water schemes and a further 170,000 families provided their own wells and pumps.

"If we're giving free water to everyone else we have to have some semblance of fair play for these rural dwellers," he said.

Separately, Dail newcomer Danny Healy-Rae has confirmed that he will definitely not vote for Enda Kenny in the election this coming week.

"The people of the country and the people of Kerry did not want that government led by Enda Kenny returned to office," he said yesterday.

Coalition

His brother, Michael Healy-Rae, who took over his father Jackie's Kerry Dail seat in 2011, is understood to be still keeping his options open on coalition.

It is also understood that, for the moment at least, Michael will not figure in today's talks.

TDs in the six-member Independent Alliance believe that rural families risk being discriminated against in the arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail which underpins an emerging minority coalition.

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