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art of the deal

Should we still pay our water bills? It's the law, says Micheál Martin

Fianna Fáil TDs and senators have signed off on the deal agreed last week with Fine Gael.

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin urged people to obey the law this evening, as he was asked repeatedly whether householders should pay their water charges.

Martin was speaking to reporters on the plinth at Leinster House after his parliamentary party signed off on the deal to allow a Fine Gael-led minority government.

The ‘Confidence and Supply’ arrangement will allow Enda Kenny to form an administration with the backing of independents.

In return, Fianna Fáil will abstain on the election of Taoiseach, the nomination of ministers and the reshuffling of ministers. It will vote against or abstain from any motions of no confidence in the government and from any votes on money bills.

confidence Some of the terms agreed upon by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil Fianna Fáil

A policy framework, published this evening by Fianna Fáil, covers areas like the economy, public sector pay and homelessness.

However, the issue of water – which was the main sticking point in weeks of talks between the two Civil War parties – dominated this evening’s press conference.

“Those who have not paid have an obligation to pay,” Martin said, when asked what would happen with water charges.

Referring to comments made by the outgoing Labour environment minister last week he said “Alan Kelly, through his own legislation, left a lot of people who haven’t paid off the hook as well”.

Legislation passed by the Fine Gael-Labour government “wasn’t particularly strong” when it came to pursuing those who hadn’t paid their water bills, Martin insisted.

Asked whether his party would back legislation to toughen the law on non-payers he said Fianna Fáil hadn’t made any specific commitment in the area but that people should continue to be pursued.

And directly asked whether householders should pay bills still to be issued, he said people should uphold the law.

What’s in the deal? 

Under the terms of the agreement published tonight, Irish Water would be retained “as a single national utility in public ownership”.

Water charges will be suspended for at least nine months, six weeks after the new government takes office.

A commission on water will then report to an Oireachtas committee on water, whose recommendations will be voted on by the Oireachtas as a whole.

econ Fianna Fáil Fianna Fáil

The section on the economy in the (brief) document released this evening includes commitments to establish a “rainy day” fund and one to “maintain Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax, and engage constructively with any measures to work towards international tax reform while critically analysing proposals that may not be in Ireland’s long term interests”.

The section on industrial relations includes promises to introduce a “Public Service Pay Commission to examine pay levels across the public service” and to “respect the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court as the proper forum for state intervention in industrial relation disputes”.

Regarding homelessness, there’s a pledge to “expedite the delivery of social housing units” and a plan to increase rent supplement.

The deal will be reviewed in 2018, the document says.

The independents

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has been continuing its meetings with independent TDs to see if it can garner enough support to form a government – Enda Kenny’s party still needs to get six independent TDs on board.

Speaking earlier on Morning Ireland, Denis Naughten, a member of the so-called rural alliance, said independent TDs would not see the agreement until it was signed off on by the parliamentary parties of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Naughten said he wanted to see a deal reached “as quickly as possible” but that he was “not going to put a finishing date on it”.

“Hopefully this week, but that may not be possible,” he noted.

Read: Vincent Browne: This is the worst possible outcome of the general election

Read: Day 66: Talks continue but Independents warn not to expect a government this week

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