Friday 28 October 2016

Minister to pay water charges 'despite doubts'

Minister Finian McGrath (Picture: Tom Burke)
Minister Finian McGrath (Picture: Tom Burke)

Minister for Disabilities Finian McGrath has bowed to political pressure and will now pay his water charge.

Mr McGrath had faced calls from his ministerial colleagues to pay the bill given his elevation to Cabinet last week.

The Dublin Bay North TD sought advice over the issue from Attorney General Maire Whelan amid concerns boycotting the charges could compromise his position at Cabinet.

Although Ms Whelan is believed to have said a refusal to pay would not jeopardise his ministerial role, Mr McGrath last night announced plans to pay his charge.


In a statement, Mr McGrath said the "manner in which Irish Water was set up and its approach remains personally unacceptable". The TD also said he was "deeply sceptical about the motives and the ability of the service to deliver".

However, he said that a failure to pay the water charges "will become a significant distraction to other important work and I'm determined that this will not be allowed to happen". "To that end, I will now regularise my situation with Irish Water and pay my charges," Mr McGrath said.

Sources say Mr McGrath was contacted by a significant number of constituents urging him not to pay his bills.

In his statement, he criticised the way in which Irish Water has done business. "The manner in which Irish Water was set up and its approach remains personally unacceptable to me. I'm still deeply sceptical about the motives and the ability of the service to deliver," he said.

"There are also affordability issues, too, and I certainly felt there was a lack of insight demonstrated by the previous government as regards people's everyday financial struggles."

"There are many examples of this, including leaving families to their own devices as regards replacing lead pipes in their homes, and not taking into account the significant additional water requirements of many families who have members with a special needs requirement.

"However, I recognise that recent government negotiations, which I was involved in, have brought forward a mechanism to review the provision of water and its infrastructure."

The Taoiseach and several members of Cabinet said during the week that all ministers should pay up.


Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly had also criticised Mr McGrath after he revealed he did not pay the charge.

Waterford deputy John Halligan, who along with Mr McGrath is a member of the Independent Alliance, has said he does not intend to pay. This is despite Mr Halligan's expected appointment as a junior minister next week.

The issue of water charges will continue to dominate political events as more bills are sent out in the coming days.

But the new Government has pledged to suspend charges in five weeks' time before setting up a commission.

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