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"FG and Labour have spent months dodging questions": Coalition slammed over water 'farce'

Enda Kenny confirmed the estimated average household payment for water charges this morning, but he said nothing had been signed off on at today’s Cabinet meeting.

Image: Eric Vidal

THE GOVERNMENT’s BEING rounded upon by the opposition over this morning’s water charges announcement.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed to the Dáil this morning that the annual bill for houses will be around €240, with a standing charge of around €50.

But he admitted nothing had been “signed off on” following the a Cabinet meeting on the issue this morning.

One Minister described this morning’s discussions at the Cabinet table as “robust” after details of how much consumers can be expected to pay for water were widely reported in the media this morning.

Here’s what Fianna Fáil‘s environment spokesman, Barry Cowen, has been saying:

This has descended into a complete farce. Fine Gael and Labour have spent months dodging questions about just how much people will be forced to pay for their water.

They have gone as far as to claim that they’ve never even discussed the issue at Cabinet.

Now we have to find out from media reports how many showers we can have, how many times we can use our washing machine and how many times we can brush our teeth before we start clocking up charges.

[...] The Government needs to come clean about water charges once and for all. Instead of leaking selectively to the media, they need to communicate directly with households about the charges they will face in just six months’ time.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams says the levy is unfair and unjust. Here’s what he had to say during Leader’s Questions…

Taoiseach, yesterday I raised with you the issue of Water Charges, which is causing deep concern to householders across the state.

In your reply to me you said the Government had not taken a decision; that various matters had to be taken into consideration; and that there was a need to assess a whole range of issues before any decisions could be made.

You then pulled together an unscheduled Cabinet meeting and sent your spin doctors off to the media to give details of the decision that you told the Dáil you had not taken.

Taoiseach, this is but the latest in a whole series of major decisions in which your Government has bypassed this Dáil in favour of governing by press release and media spin.

On each occasion the Government has shown contempt for the Oireachtas, for the Opposition and for the citizens who your decisions will affect.

The fact that you called a special cabinet meeting to deal with this issues is down to the manner in which the Opposition here has pursued you.

It is clear that your desire was to kick to touch on this issue. You govern by making it up as you go along.

What is very clear now is that there will indeed be a standing charge as part of the Water Charge.

Paul Murphy of the Socialist Party‘s laying his criticism at the door of the Labour Party…

The lack of agreement between the government parties on the water tax is a sign of the pressure that the Labour Party in particular are under.

This is obviously because they are now aware from canvassing of the anger against this water tax, and the anger at the betrayals of the Labour Party in government.

It would suit the Labour Party to put the water tax out of sight until after the elections.

This disagreement cannot be used as a smokescreen to cynically hold back on the size of the tax people will face until after the elections.

Campaign groups have also been critical of the estimated charge. Here’s the take from older people’s organisation Active Retirement Ireland

This government already has a bad track record when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable in society and the lack of clarity around the upcoming water charges is causing anxiety among older people, families with low incomes and people with special needs.

We are calling on the Government to acknowledge ability to pay as a measure when calculating water charges.

There is no way a widow living alone, or a family with no breadwinner, should be paying the kind of figures we’ve seen mooted in the press in recent weeks.

If the annual standing charge is assessed per household, then it will disproportionately affect older people who live alone, with only the Living Alone Allowance of €7.70 to help them meet this extra cost.

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