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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 11 November, 2019
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Gilmore wants 'a genuinely free allowance' as Cabinet discusses how much you'll pay for water

A coalition split over water charges will be discussed at Government Buildings this morning.

After a week off, Cabinet ministers return to business today.
After a week off, Cabinet ministers return to business today.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

WATER CHARGES ARE likely to dominate this morning’s Cabinet meeting as ministers seek to work out differences between the coalition parties.

This morning’s meeting at Government Buildings, the first since the Easter break, will be dominated by discussions about how much households can expect to pay for water when Irish Water begins to send out bills.

However there was no indication yesterday from either the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste yesterday that a final agreement would be reached today despite pressure from the Fine Gael side for voters to know about charges before the 23 May local and European elections.

Labour has said it has “substantive differences” with Fine Gael over water charges particularly in relation to people’s ability to pay and the fact that most of the water meters will not be installed by the time Irish Water starts producing bills.

‘Free allowance’

Speaking last night, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said that it was important to ensure that people get a free allowance of water.

“We also have to ensure that people get a free allowance, a genuinely free allowance, a basic allowance of water that is such a necessity,” he said.

He also said that he did not know if the matter can be resolved today but said he is “anxious that we bring certainty and a conclusion to it as soon as possible”.

“But I am also anxious that we get it right,” he added.

Labour was unhappy with a memo, prepared by the Environment Minister Phil Hogan and brought to Cabinet on 16 April. It detailed how the State can be expected to put up maximum of €537 million in a subvention for Irish Water.

‘Fairness and affordability’

This, the memo suggested based on CSO figures, would mean that the average charge facing a household will be around €240 or €248 in the case of an family with two children, both including a standing charge.

But Labour highlighted its misgivings about the memo, the idea of a standing charge and bemoaned the fact it had been leaked to the media before coming to Cabinet – Gilmore saying this was “unhelpful”.

The Labour leader has repeatedly said he would have preferred if the issue had been sorted out some months ago, but has stressed the importance of the “right decision” being made.

Fine Gael has stressed that it too wants the right decision to be made, and insisted the parties are “united on the issues of fairness and affordability”.

As well as water, Ministers are also due to discuss the forthcoming by-elections in Longford-Westmeath and Dublin West with the writs for both likely to be moved in the Dáil this afternoon.

‘Reasonably quickly’: Kenny and Gilmore still can’t say when they’ll decide on water charges

Analysis: Here’s the one thing you need to remember about the water row?

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Hugh O'Connell

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