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State of the Nation

Missed last night's water charge deadline? No problem, it seems

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in Irish politics right now…

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Everybody’s talking about…

When a deadline isn’t a deadline.

File Photo More Water Charges Protests In Dublin Tomorrow. Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

As midnight’s deadline approached, close to 900,000 customers (about 60% of those eligible to pay) had returned their registration packs to Irish Water.

There was a media offensive yesterday with Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Irish Water spokesperson Elizabeth Arnett making a number of appearances to encourage last-minute registration.

Confusion reigned supreme early in the day with Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins telling Morning Ireland there was “no clarity” on whether people would face financial penalties for non or late registration. Irish Water was forced to quickly release a statement clarifying her remarks and stressing that people will not be fined.

Kelly again reiterated that yesterday wasn’t a complete deadline, noting that a future one will be set for people to apply for the €100 water conservation grant.

This begs the question: When will the final, final deadline be?

The Government’s softly-softly approach seems to have backfired somewhat, with four in ten households yet to register. However, it has emerged that debt collection agencies may be used to collect the charge from people who fail to pay their bills over a prolonged period.

The next large-scale protest against the charge is planned for April, when bills are due to arrive. Mass non-payment would lead to another massive headache for Fine Gael and Labour.

Watch this space.

The agenda

  • The potential sale of Aer Lingus will be debated once again by the Transport Committee at 11am.
  • Representatives from Enterprise Ireland will appear before the Jobs Committee at 1.30pm to discuss female entrepreneurs and women in the technology industry.
  • Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe will be answering questions in the Dáil at 2pm – no doubt Aer Lingus will be the main topic.
  • Enda Kenny will be answering Leaders’ Questions at 3.15pm.
  • The Gender Recognition Bill is due to be discussed in the Seanad at 4.45pm.
  • The Dáil will debate a Technical Group motion calling for a European Debt Conference in order to “agree a common solution with our Eurozone partners” at 7pm

Inside Leinster House

Fianna Fáil is due to meet at noon today to discuss tabling a motion of no-confidence in Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett.

Yesterday Barrett released a statement clarifying remarks he made last week during an interview with RTÉ. Barrett said TDs were entitled to question his decision to block a Dáil debate on the establishment of a Commission of Investigation into Garda malpractice. 

However, he failed to withdraw his remark that opposition TDs are trying to undermine him.It was reported that Barrett was due to contact Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last night or this morning in a bid to resolve the issue.

The Ceann Comhairle has had a number of run ins with Opposition TDs in recent times, leading several to state they have no confidence in him. If Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil join forces over the issue, it could spell serious trouble for Barrett.

What the others are saying

  • Independent TD Michael Lowry is seeking permission to bring a High Court challenge aimed at preventing his trial on alleged tax offences, a number of papers are reporting. 
  • A senior MEP has accused the European Commission of breaching EU treaties by failing to enforce tax laws, according to the Irish Examiner
  • The Irish Times is reporting that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan described the “abuse” members of the force are being subjected to by anti-water charge protesters as “very worrying”.

In case you missed it

  • Didn’t meet last night’s water charge registration deadline? Irish Water has confirmed it won’t fine you.
  • Enda Kenny has vowed that Templemore Garda Training College won’t close again.
  • Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett has said opposition parties are entitled to question his decisions.
  • Dublin City Council has voted in favour of a series of new busking by-laws
  • Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is looking into lifting the ban on selling alcohol on Good Friday.
  • The European Parliament was evacuated after a bomb alert.
  • David Cameron is not a fan of doing maths live on air. 

On the Twitter machine

Was yesterday the day the music died?

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