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FG ex-lord mayor plans court action if charges scrapped and refunds denied

Are we about to see another set of protests – this time of people demanding their money BACK?

A FORMER FINE Gael councillor and lord mayor of Dublin has said he’ll launch a legal action in the event that the incoming government scraps Irish Water, and refunds aren’t issued.

“I would go in and take a case against the State for the two-thirds of people who have paid or are paying their water charges,” Gerry Breen, who served as lord mayor between 2010 and 2011, said this afternoon.

Defending the process of charging for water, he insisted it was a “sensible” option, and said people should be treated equally no matter what happened to the contentious utility.

Speaking to Liveline, Breen said he estimated it would cost some €200 million to refund those who had already paid their bills, adding that he didn’t think it was “in the gift” of newly-elected TDs to decide refunds shouldn’t be issued.

16/6/2011. Bloomsday Gerry Breen pictured with Senator David Norris in 2011. Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The issue of Irish Water and water charges has been back in the spotlight in the last number of days, in the wake of heavy losses for Fine Gael and Labour in the general election.

The arithmetic of the new Dáil, following a boost for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the AAA-PBP and other left-wing politicians, means there are now a majority of TDs who want charges either scrapped or suspended.

Speaking this afternoon Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that despite indications the charges would be up for discussion as politicians worked to form a government, people should continue to pay their water bills.

It followed remarks from Fine Gael defence and agriculture minister Simon Coveney last night that the party would be “willing to talk about water”.

FF v FG 

Fianna Fáil, which is just a few seats behind the FG tally in terms of seats in the new Dáil, wants charges suspended. Reiterating his party’s stated position during the campaign, Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary said today they had made it clear in recent weeks that “we would not give refunds”.

Fianna Fáil has made clear that it will push for management of water supply to be returned to local authorities, and for Irish Water to be downsized into a national oversight body modelled on the National Roads Authority.

Kenny said today that his party would be willing to listen to anyone who might have ideas on forming a stable government. However, he said he believed it would be “a seriously costly and seriously historic mistake to move away from having a single national utility”.

“It’s a fundamental issue for Fine Gael here that you have a single national utility for water and that you have a fair and affordable contribution,” the Taoiseach added.

In a statement in January, Irish Water confirmed that 61% of customers had paid water charges – up from 55% at the end of the previous billing cycle.

Read: Enda Kenny says people should keep paying their water charges

Read: Luas drivers will strike on Easter Sunday and Monday

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