Sinn Féin, the Irish republican political party has accused Fianna Fáil of a U-turn and shifting back to the Fine Gael position on the issue of water charges. A report by an Oireachtas committee on domestic water charges has made its final recommendations after a number of last minute changes were made. The last-minute alterations included re-introducing a measure to install meters in all new builds and the inclusion of “excess use” levies. In the end Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were the only parties to join forces to back the report at the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services. While Sinn Féin, Labour, Solidarity, the Green Party and two Independent deputies opposed it. They refused to accept the report’s final recommendations, but the report was passed by 13 votes to seven.
The report goes to the Dáil for debate before a vote in the House. Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen defended their decision to side with Fine Gael on the issue and said: “The report agreed today is essentially the same report that was agreed over a week ago and provides for a fair system where those who abuse our water service are financially penalised, but water charges for 92 per cent of the population have been eliminated.” However, there were sharp exchanges between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil over the water charges issue. Sinn Féin have a policy to abolish domestic water-charges, not to pursue arrears for these charges and support the retention of water services and infrastructure in public ownership. The Sinn Féin TD said the Taoiseach had no respect for the people who had marched in their “tens of thousands” against water charges. She accused the Government of keeping a privatisation plan for Irish Water in place.
Attacking both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, she said Tuesday’s report had been cobbled together and confirmed the parties’ confidence and supply agreement was really a deal for “connivance and cute-hoorism”. She said a deal had been on the verge of being made but Fianna Fail engaged in a “spectacular u-turn” on water charges that showed they could not be trusted. Mary Lou McDonald described what had been seen “is a text book example of parliament, of the Dáil, of elected representatives conniving to abandon their democratic mandate and rather than seeking to represent the people, seeking to face the people down.”