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Charges to be capped until 2016 as Government 'rattled' by protests

WATER charges are to be cut next week as the Government comes under mounting pressure to axe Irish Water.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly confirmed yesterday that the Government is about to make "a very big decision in relation to Irish Water" to fix the "broken water system".

He said that Irish Water was the "number one" issue for the Government and that charges were being reviewed.

The Government is prepared to rein in the charges until 2016.

"They are going to be changed," said Mr Kelly.

"I think that they are going to reflect the concerns of the people. I am pushing that we bring certainty over charges to the public next week and that those charges will be defined for a period of time so that Irish water can be set up fully.

LEAKS

"That means that we will have the metering programme fully rolled-out and certainly that we can get to the issue of addressing leaks across the country so that the people can then have faith with Irish Water."

The move comes as pressure mounts on the Government to make changes at Irish Water.

Growing public outrage has led to Mayor of Drogheda Kevin Callan resigning from Fine Gael in protest at the Government's handling of water charges.

"This whole debacle that is Irish Water has led me to the point of view that we are dealing with cronyism, we are dealing with allowances, we are dealing with all of this nonsense, bonuses, and people can't do it," he said.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said that the resignation was disappointing.

"I regret that the mayor felt that it was the right thing for him to step down," he said.

"We're totally committed to ensuring that Irish Water is a success."

Elsewhere, Mr Kelly said he was strongly opposed to the privatisation of Irish Water and refused to rule out a referendum to protect water supplies.

"It is not something that I would ideologically be against. I would not tolerate Irish Water being privatised in any way," he said.

"There may be mechanisms in the Oireachtas where this can be addressed equally, because constitutionally the key is that if you do it for Irish Water do you do it for other companies too?"

Mr Kelly also refused to rule out Revenue being used to pursue unpaid water bills.

"We are looking at various different ways in which that can be addressed," he said.

affordable

"The majority of people always pay their bills, but we have to make sure that they are fair, affordable and that there is a consistency in terms of what they are over the coming years."

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney (inset left) earlier said there was no question of Irish Water being abolished.

He said that too much had been invested in the setting-up of the utility, but insisted that the Government would learn from the mistakes made.

Labour backbencher Dominic Hannigan has renewed his call to copper-fasten the utility remaining in public ownership, even if it meant holding a referendum on the issue.

Mr Donohoe has said he is "absolutely certain" that Irish Water will be a publicly-owned utility now and in the future.

Mr Coveney said: "There's one certainty, and that's that Irish Water won't be scrapped."

hnews@herald.ie


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