herald

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Two TDs propping up Government haven't paid their water bills

Finian McGrath, who signed up to support the Government, did not pay water charges. Photo: Collins Photo Agency
Finian McGrath, who signed up to support the Government, did not pay water charges. Photo: Collins Photo Agency
Waterford TD John Halligan has said that he hasn’t paid too

Two Independent Alliance TDs who signed up to support the Government have confirmed that they haven't paid water charges.

Finian McGrath - who has been appointed as a "super junior" minister - and John Halligan have both said they oppose water charges and haven't paid.

The position puts them at odds with the majority of Government TDs, with Fine Gael encouraging the continued payment of bills despite a commitment to suspend charges while a commission examines their future.

Handling

Dublin Bay North TD Mr McGrath made the admission on RTE Radio.

"No, I didn't pay my water charges," he said when asked about the matter by presenter Brendan O'Connor.

He said he refused to pay because "I was very annoyed over the whole setting up of Irish Water and the handling of it and the incompetence of what happened and the amount of money that went into it.

"But I also had a problem in relation to water charges. I was always involved in that campaign over many, many years, so I haven't paid."

He indicated that he still intended to boycott the charges. "I believe that we have to fund services like water and health through general taxation.

"I would say I was part of the civil disobedience campaign… on the particular issue that I feel very strongly about and a lot of Irish people felt strongly about it," Mr McGrath said.

Mr McGrath was asked if he would pay if the Commission recommends that charges remain in place and he said he will "go with the democratic wishes of Dail Eireann".

Mr McGrath is now the junior minister for disabilities and he would have a seat at the Cabinet table.

His Waterford colleague John Halligan confirmed that he hasn't paid the water charges either.

"I'm like hundreds of thousands of other people that haven't paid it and many politicians," he told the Herald.

Longford-Westmeath's Kevin 'Boxer' Moran - also a member of the group - said: "I've always paid my water bills."

He said he wouldn't encourage people not to pay, but that "if they don't want to pay that's their own prerogative."

A spokesman for Shane Ross, the new Transport Minister, confirmed that he had paid his water bills.

Suspended

Independent Alliance TD Sean Canney said the issue doesn't apply to him as he pays into a rural group-water scheme.

The future of Irish Water and charges was perhaps the most divisive issue discussed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in their negotiations about how a minority government could be formed.

Fianna Fail wanted the utility abolished and charges suspended in return for facilitating Enda Kenny's government.

The deal between the parties sees Irish Water retained as a national utlity, but charges will be suspended until after the commission examining the future of water services delivers its report.

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