THE Government has been accused of 'sneaking in' changes to a draft law giving effect to penalties for people refusing to pay their water charges.
The penalty clauses would force local council tenants and people in private rented accommodation to pay their water charges and, opposition politicians say, could result in eviction in cases of non-payment.
Other measures would block the sale of a house, including council tenant purchases, until all water charges are paid up.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy has said the government refused to allow the opposition see the detailed measures in good time ahead of what should be a fiery Dail debate next week.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett accused the Government of "sleight of hand".
He said that these measures were tacked on to a separate and unrelated piece of legislation. He said the measures had serious draconian consequences for people who objected to water charges as unjust.
But an Environment Department spokesman said the reaction of the two TDs was difficult to understand as the legislation was in accord with established Dail practice.
"Three days is the standard timeline for all bills and this is established under standing orders," the spokesman said.
Officials said that these provisions had been signalled in principle late last year.
"The minister also announced in May that he would be bringing forward a number of amendments to water services legislation," the spokesman said.
"These amendments relate to outstanding elements of the package of water measures announced by the government last November."
Fianna Fail's Sean Fleming also accused the Government of using a legislative Trojan Horse to introduce the amendments at the latest possible stage.
He said that ministers had been caught red-handed in a manoeuvre that showed they had learned nothing from what he called the Irish Water fiasco.