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Alan Kelly and Brendan Ogle have been trading barbs on national radio (again)

Water charges are centre stage once again. Alan Kelly has described this week’s report on the issue as a ‘fudge’.

FORMER ENVIRONMENT MINISTER Alan Kelly and union leader Brendan Ogle, one of the main figures behind the anti-water charges movement, have been taking pot shots at each other on the airwaves this morning.

The pair, who have been fierce political enemies since the height of the protest campaign against Irish Water in 2014, renewed their rivalry in Sean O’Rourke’s studio on RTÉ Radio 1.

That’s not to say they appeared together: on first, as part of a debate format with Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell (who was on the phone) Brendan Ogle repeatedly took aim at the Labour TD, who he said had refused to share a studio with him.

ogle1 Source: PA WIRE

The three guests had been booked to talk about the report from the expert commission on water charges which recommended yesterday that “normal use” of household water should be paid for out of general taxation.

It also recommended, however, that households be charged for overuse or wasteful use of water supply.

Speaking first on this morning’s programme, Ogle said that the report demonstrated a massive waste of public resources on “an unnecessary project”.

Anti-water charges campaigners had long argued, he insisted, that water should be paid for through general taxation.

“It appears that the commission broadly agrees with us,” he said, adding that hundreds of millions had been wasted due to the lack of a proper debate on the issue.

Water charges had been “rammed down the necks” of householders, he said – and there had been mass opposition to the charging regime in recent years.

The segment ended with a bad-tempered contribution from the campaigner, who insisted several times that Alan Kelly had refused to debate him on water.

The host said that that hadn’t been the case, and that Ogle had refused to share a studio with the Labour politician.

He had wanted to “have a debate,” the union leader said.

The former minister for water charges Alan Kelly won’t sit in the same studio as me.

Alan Kelly 

Kelly’s appearance, after an ad break, started in a similar manner – with the former Labour deputy leader telling O’Rourke:

Brendan (Ogle) should put himself forward in a general election because he has so much to say that surely he has the guts and the courage to put his name forward; but he doesn’t and he won’t.

Kelly said that he wouldn’t be surprised if there was an election, in the wake of the publication of the report.

“My initial reaction to this report is that we’ve got the worst of every world now,” he continued, describing it as a fudge.

Irish general election Source: PA Archive/PA Images

He said that it would be legally impossible to allow most people to have water for free at the point of supply because of EU rules.

Elsewhere this morning, Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney, who took over responsibility for water from Kelly, said that scrapping charges entirely would be “completely unrealistic”.

He said that the wastage of water needed to be accounted for through the metering system, and that “there needs to be some consequences for people blatantly wasting water”.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny, Coveney illustrated his point further by saying:

You don’t wash your car with Ballygowan, because if you do, you pay for it.

The minister also said that people who paid their charges “did the right thing and we are not going to make a fool of them…” before saying that those who haven’t yet paid should be pursued.

What’s going on? 

The commission on water charges was set up as part of the agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the wake of February’s inconclusive election result, allowing Enda Kenny’s party to set up a minority government.

Widely regarded as a way for the two parties to effectively park a hot potato issue, it was agreed that the commission would hand in its report to an Oireachtas water committee, which will further debate it.

The entire Dáil will vote on what to do about water charges at some point next year, it’s expected.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

Read: Official verdict: ‘The vast majority of consumers will not have to pay direct charges for water’

Read: If you paid your water bills you won’t be getting your money back

 

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