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"I think that the suspension is a mistake" - FF and FG TDs still split over water charges

Leo Varadkar came in for some heavy criticism from both Fianna Fáil and Independent TDs over comments he made about charges this week.

thom reg pic FG TD Regina Doherty and Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne Source: RTÉ Screengrab

FINE GAEL AND Fianna Fáil are still at odds over water, with both parties disagreeing strongly over the suspension of the charges.

TDs from the two parties, which reached a historic deal on Friday evening around the formation of a Fine Gael-led minority government with support from Fianna Fáil, spoke today about their opposing view on the controversial charges.

Last Tuesday, both parties provisionally agreed to suspend water charges while a commission was set up to determine if they should be kept.

However, speaking on The Week in Politics, FG TD for Meath East Regina Doherty said that suspending the charges was a mistake.

“I think that the suspension is a mistake,” she said.

“I think it will make it more difficult for us to re-introduce them.

I’m trying to be optimistic to say that it will give us the space to actually do some of the things we did wrong and get them right and I’m very very hopeful that the commission will see sense and agree with an allowance regime and payment thereafter.

Doherty was echoing the views of her party colleague, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who said during the week that the focus by Fianna Fáil on water charges during negotiations was “not in the national interest”.

Criticism 

Varadkar’s comments were met with fierce criticism by Fianna Fáil during the week, and today on TWIP, Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne said that it was the third time he had attempted “to destabilise”  the negotiations.

4/2/2016 General Election Campaigns Starts Thomas Byrne Source: Leah Farrell

“Three times Leo Varadkar has tried to destabilise this whole process,” he said.

We’ve had the third one now with John Halligan, first it was his tweet about the posters then his comment the other day… It’s not in the national interest.

Byrne was referring comments to John Halligan from Varadkar about the possibility of improvements being given to University Hospital Waterford.

The Independent Waterford TD, who also appeared on the programme, said that unless guarantees were given about improvements to the hospital he would not consider going into government.

He said that Varadkar told him that funding to other hospitals would be affected if improvements to University Hospital Waterford were to happen.

Halligan also echoed Byrne’s views that Leo Varadkar had been detrimental to the government formation talks.

“I think he’s a hindrance,” he said.

“I actually believe he doesn’t want to be part of a government, he doesn’t want to form a government.

Maybe there are others that have nudged ahead of him in the leadership challenge and maybe as someone said he’s kicking his toys out of the pram because of that.

john hall John Halligan Source: RTE screengrab

Water

Thomas Byrne defended Fianna Fáil’s record on water charges from claims that the party had changed their position over the years, and that suspension of the charges was being enacted only to “save Fianna Fáil’s blushes” after their election promises.

Bríd Smith, Dublin South Central TD with AAAPBP, said that Fianna Fáil were “for water charges”.

Bríd Smith Bríd Smith Source: RTÉ screengrab

Regina Doherty said that what had happened in the talks was “more about water politics than water policy”.

She said that going back through the years, Fianna Fáil had agreed to principle in water charges.

However, Byrne disagreed with this and said that Fianna Fáil opposed the charges as there was “no debate” in the Dáil when they were introduced.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Simon Coveney told RTÉ News this morning that he expected a deal to be reached with Independents by Thursday.

Following Friday’s agreement between the two Civil War parties, Fine Gael will meet with Independent TDs tomorrow in order to try to garner the support to form a government.

Read: Comments by Leo about FF’s “surreal” focus on water have kicked off a row

Read: I won’t make promises we can’t keep’: Independents ready to bargain with Fine Gael

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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