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Fianna Fáil have had "more positions than the Kama Sutra" on water charges, says Sinn Féin TD

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen said Sinn Féin is “showboating” with today’s motion.

Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin TD, right, with Barry Cowen TD, centre, and Michael McGrath TD
Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin TD, right, with Barry Cowen TD, centre, and Michael McGrath TD
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 6.15pm

FIANNA FÁÍ HAVE had “more positions than the Kama Sutra” on water charges, according to Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon during a debate on Sinn Féin’s motion to scrap water charges, the deputy criticised Fianna Fáil’s policy change on the issue.

The motion has again shone a light on Fianna Fáil’s policy on the issue.

The private members motion to scrap charges comes before the Dáil today.

With the support of Fianna Fáil, the government is set to vote down the motion.

At his party’s think-in last week, Micheál Martin said Sinn Féin was “play-acting” on the issue by tabling such a 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.

The move comes a couple of weeks after Martin denied Fianna Fáil had done a U-turn on the issue.

Martin said his party had signed up to the confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael when the government was formed.

19/9/2016. Fianna Fail Think Ins Micheál Martin Source: Eamonn Farrell

It commits to putting in place an expert commission to examine the water charges issue.

The commission’s recommendation will then be debated by an Oireachtas committee, before the Dáil will ultimately decide if water charges will make a return or be scrapped for good.

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

Counter motion 

A counter motion to Sinn Féin’s motion has been agreed between Fianna Fáil and government.

While the two big parties will be teaming up today, government sources have been quick to suggest Fianna Fáil is not on the right path in terms of its newfound, popular stance on scrapping water charges.

One source told TheJournal.ie that the party’s plans should be held to the same level of scrutiny as Fine Gael’s have been – a subtle accusation that it is making a popularity play, rather than solid policies.

Fianna Fáil’s position on refunding thousands of people who have already paid the charge was called “unrealistic” by the same source.

Refunding 

Last week, Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen estimated that giving householders who paid their water charges a tax credit would cost €50 million.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Cowen said his party had made a submission to the expert commission on water charges.

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In the case where the commission recommends that water charges are to be scrapped and people are to be refunded, Cowen suggests it could be done with a tax rebate.

“This may be the solution or it may not be the only solution,” said Cowen. However, he said it is up to the commission to recommend how government should deal with the situation in all circumstances.

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin accused Fianna Fáil of “flip-flopping” on water charges.

He described the party’s latest u-turn on water charges as “laughable”.

10/5/2016. Rent Certainty Sinn Fein TD for Dublin Mid-West Eoin O Broin. Source: Leah Farrell

In the space of less than two weeks, Fianna Fáil has made several dizzying U-turns on the issue of water charges. Last week, Fianna Fáil supported the abolition of water charges. However, once Sinn Féin put a motion to the Dáil calling for the abolition of the charges, Fianna Fáil backtracked…

Ó Broin said it is time for the party to clarify its stance on water charges “once and for all and put their money where their mouth is and vote in support of the Sinn Féin motion”.

Cowen said Fianna Fáil discussed the counter motion with Fine Gael ministers.

“We remain committed to the process we signed up to,” he said.

He reiterated his party’s point that today’s Sinn Féin motion had “no legal standing”.

“It’s showboating… a stunt… the stage is there, let them at it,” he concluded.

FactCheck: Has Fianna Fáil’s position on water charges really been “consistent”?>

Read: Support for Sinn Féin and independents up, but Fianna Fáil is most popular party>

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