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Fianna Fáil won't back Sinn Féin's motion to scrap water charges despite... wanting to scrap water charges

The party said it has signed up to an agreement with Fine Gael, which has put an expert commission in place.

Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin speaking to the media with members of his parliamentary party at the start of day one of their think-in.
Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin speaking to the media with members of his parliamentary party at the start of day one of their think-in.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Michéal Martin has said his party will not back a Sinn Féin Dáil motion to scrap water charges, saying that SF is ‘play-acting’ on the issue.

The move comes just a week after Martin denied Fianna Fáil had done a U-turn on the issue.

Fianna Fáil has claimed its policy on water charges has been consistent with what they said during the election.

The party said it wants water charges abolished and the provision of water funded by general taxation.

The charges are currently suspended as an expert commission set up to determine the future of water charges begins its work.

‘Play-acting’

Speaking at the beginning of the party’s two-day think-in in Carlow today, Martin said Sinn Féin is “play-acting” with the motion.

“No motion can scrap water charges. Only a Money Bill can scrap water charges,” he said.

I think Sinn Féin are play-acting in relation to their particular motion. Motions on their own cannot get rid of charges – only legislation can.

19/9/2016 Fianna Fail Think In Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan today called on Fianna Fáil to “be true to their most recent words on water charges” and to support the motion, which will come before the Dáil on 28 September.

Martin told the media outside the Seven Oaks Hotel today that his party would be honouring the confidence and supply agreement it entered into with Fine Gael.

We are not into optics, we are into action. We are the only party who has affected an outcome on water – i.e. the ending of the water regime, because that has now happened as of our entering into an agreement with Fine Gael.
… In other words, as part of a confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael, it provided for the introduction of legislation, which has essentially got rid of water charges and the only way water charges can be introduced is through legislation and that is unlikely.

Martin said that due to the current makeup of the Dáil, he could not envisage legislation being approved that would re-introduce charges.

“You need to be honest with people. The only way you can get rid of water charges is with a Money Bill – in other words, legislation. Only governments can bring in a Money Bill – not opposition.”

Before ending the press briefing, Martin made what some described as a Freudian slip when he stated his party was not in opposition, but government.

Asked about the Budget, he said: “We are not in opposition – sorry, we are not in government”.

Smiling, he quickly corrected himself, clarifying that Fianna Fáil is in opposition.

“We wanted to be in government but we didn’t get the numbers,” he told reporters.

The two-day think-in ends tomorrow. The party plans to discuss such issues as education, housing, and the impact of Brexit.

Read: Fianna Fáil’s call for water charges to be abolished ‘first shot in election campaign’ >

Read: ‘A change of leadership is required’: Rumblings in Fine Gael that Enda should go >

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