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Joan Burton Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
Water Charges

Burton: €200 water bill for four adult family is my personal hope... and Enda is on the same page

“I am very confident that the Taoiseach and I are very much on the same page on that,” Burton said today.

Updated 2.40pm 

JOAN BURTON HAS said that her claims that a family of four, including two adult children, will face a water bill of €200 or below are “pretty much what every member of government has been saying”.

The Tánaiste has insisted that it’s her “personal hope” that the net cost of a bill when water supports are included will come in at €200 or below for a family of four including two adults and said she is confident the Taoiseach is “on the same page”.

Speaking to reporters at Government Buildings this lunchtime, Burton insisted: “My personal hope is that for some of the family types that were being described yesterday that the cost of the bill including or net of the water support payment will come in around €200 or below.

“And I am very confident that the Taoiseach and I are very much on the same page on that. The government and the Economic Management Council have had a significant number of dicussions about the likely charging regime and I am very confident that we’re on the same page.”

In other developments today: 

  • Labour senators backed an opposition motion to hold a referendum on public ownership of Irish Water. Alan Kelly said he would raise the matter with the Cabinet.
  • Enda Kenny said that Burton’s €200 figure was her speaking “in a personal capacity” while Leo Varadkar said he wasn’t sure what Burton had meant.
  • Gerry Adams said that the Taoiseach should tell the EU to ‘bugger off’ over water charges.
  • Finance Minister Michael Noonan appeared to rule out any Revenue involvement in collecting water charges.

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Responding to Labour senators support for an opposition motion to have a referendum to keep Irish Water in public ownership in perpetuity, the Tánaiste insisted said the motion was about “exploring the possibility” of a referendum.

“I think when people raise issues there’s certainly no difficulty in exploring those issues and my understanding is that that’s what the Labour senators were voting to provide for,” she said.

But her comments and the vote came a day after Taoiseach Enda Kenny ruled out holding such a referendum.

On the possibility of a fixed rate for water charges being place until 2018, as reported in the Irish Times today, Burton indicated a cap should be in place for “a minimum period of two years” and possibly longer.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar told RTÉ’s News at One that he was in favour of a maximum fee for water charges for a certain period.

He had earlier said he did not want to talk about specific figures, telling reporters in Dublin: “I don’t want to talk about figures until we know exactly what they are because we don’t want to confuse people or send out mixed messages.”

In the Seanad, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said that when announced water charges will be “modest and affordable” and will be set out over defined period.  He added that ”Irish Water will remain in public ownership. Full stop”.

He said he would bring senators’ referendum proposal to the attention of the Cabinet and raise it directly with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’

Earlier during Leaders’ Questions, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams accused the government of being ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’ after the Tánaiste’s remarks on the cost of water charges.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheal Martin asked the Taoiseach for his “much sought after clarity” on the matter. Martin said that the remarks by Burton yesterday that a family of four adults will pay €200 “underlined the shambles” that was Irish Water.

Enda Kenny responded that the Tánaiste, who made the remarks in the Dáil, was “speaking in a personal capacity”.

He said that no decision had been made in regard to using Revenue to collect the charges and that without charges, €850 million would need to be found.

Kenny accused Adams of “waffling on” and said that Adams was “standing on all platforms for all people”. He said he didn’t agree that Irish Water has to be scrapped.

Bugger off

Adams earlier said that the Government should “stand up” to the EU and called on Enda Kenny to tell the Union to “bugger off” about water charges.

The Sinn Féin leader had told Morning Ireland: “It’s about time our Government stood up to the EU … the Taoiseach should tell the EU to bugger off on this.”

Adams made the remarks when asked why Sinn Féin predicted the shortfall of scrapping water charges would be €300 million, while the Government has said that under EU rules it will actually cost the State €800 million.

The Louth TD defended his u-turn on paying water charges, saying: “I’m entitled to change my mind.”

He said that he had recently chosen not to pay the charges “in solidarity with those who can’t pay”, adding: “I can afford to pay this of course, I’m on a decent wage.”

Sinn Féin’s Deputy Minister Mary Lou McDonald and Finance Spokesperson have also both confirmed that they also do not intend on paying the charges, despite previously saying that they would.

Adams said that the party was “not advocating that people shouldn’t pay”.

We will support those who don’t pay, that’s their personal decision and fair play to anyone who takes that position, but my focus and Sinn Féin’s focus is on those who can’t pay.

No Revenue involvement

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Finance Minister Michael Noonan did appear to clear up one issue – signalling that the Revenue Commissioners will not play a role in collection of the charges.

Meanwhile, on Newstalk Breakfast Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said that Fine Gael and Labour “making this up as they are going along”.

Proper thought and planning was not put into this whole process.

McGrath said that he believes in paying for water in principle but that it was “too early to say” what a reasonable charge would be.

He said that charges should be suspended until the the standard of the network is improved.

- additional reporting by Paul Hosford, Hugh O’Connell and Aoife Barry 

State of the Nation: Can Fine Gael and Labour agree on water charges?

Gerry Adams now says he WON’T pay water charges on his Donegal holiday home


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