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Saturday 3 December 2016

'I don't see water charges coming back', says Martin

Micheal Martin Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Micheal Martin Picture: Colin O'Riordan

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has insisted water charges will not return, as the Government awaits a review.

The independent commission set up to look into the controversial charges is due to publish its long-awaited report in the coming days.

In an interview with the Herald, Mr Martin said the previous regime "came into disrepute" and his party remained opposed to any return of the charges.

He said that a government would not have been formed had it not been for Fianna Fail's decision to push for the suspension of charges.

Confusion

Mr Martin rejected suggestions that he has fuelled confusion surrounding his party's stance on the issue - a view held privately by many of his own TDs.

However, the decision to predict that charges will not return - only days before the commission produces its report - will leave Mr Martin open to criticism.

"We said before the election we were against water charges. We didn't want water charges. We wanted to abolish water charges," the Cork South- Central TD said.

"We got them suspended. I don't think they are coming back, that's my honest position. I don't think this particular regime is coming back."

The report itself is due to be examined by a 20-member Oireachtas committee - one of the largest panels in the history of the State.

It is expected that the chairperson of the group, which will sit for about three months, will be a non-party TD.

The committee will be made up of five government TDs, four Fianna Fail TDs, two Sinn Fein TDs and five members of smaller parties or Independents.

Members of the commission are due to be paid €3,000 each, while chairman Kevin Duffy is being paid €7,500. Mr Duffy is also the chairman of the Public Sector Pay Commission.

The composition of the committee was the subject of tensions in recent days.

Fine Gael is strongly of the view that a charging regime should return.

According to Fianna Fail's submission to the commission, a tax credit should be considered to compensate those who have paid their bills.

Mr Martin warned that a decision will have to be taken as to whether a better approach would be pursuing those who have not paid.

"My view is that, when the law of the land is passed, then we all have an obligation to obey the law of the land," he said.

"There are two options - you either go down the route of recouping or tax credits for those who have paid or we go after those who haven't paid. It's one or the other but it has to be one."

Revenue

Mr Martin said he does not believe charges would produce a significant revenue base to fund infrastructure.

"The last charging regime was losing money, so let's call a spade a spade," he said.

"It's not huge money in terms of the kind of things we are talking about here."

Mr Martin indicated that, if the commission does recommend that charges come back, Fianna Fail may reject the proposals.

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