Fianna Fáil may not support new Fine Gael Taoiseach if water charges debacle not resolved

The impasse between the country’s two biggest parties shows no signs of abating.

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Source: Shutterstock/Chepko Danil Vitalevich

FIANNA FÁIL HAS threatened to withdraw its support for the Fine Gael-led minority government if the current row over water charges is not resolved to its satisfaction.

The party’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen yesterday told his parliamentary colleagues via email that, unless Fine Gael honours its commitments under the confidence and supply agreement, Fianna Fáil will not countenance “facilitating any potential changes to government personnel and roles”.

The email would appear to be a thinly-veiled threat regarding the precarious nature of both Enda Kenny’s current leadership and the competition to succeed him, commonly expected to be a straight shootout between Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar.

The latest controversy surrounding water charges came to the boil last week when major differences between the two main parties appeared as the committee on future funding of water prepared to make its recommendations, with Coveney insisting that those recommendations would constitute a breach of EU law, leaving Ireland open to substantial fines.

Speaking to Yates on Sunday on Newstalk this morning, Cowen acknowledged the existence of the email and what it contained, saying that it “simply reiterated” what is already contained in the confidence and supply agreement.

Last week, Social Protection Minister Varadkar had disputed that the terms of the confidence and supply agreement mean that Fine Gael must side with any recommendations made by the water committee.

7/4/2016. General Election Government Formations
Barry Cowen


Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

“If there is a clear indication that they (Fine Gael) will not carry out the express wishes of the Dail in relation to the recommendations contained in the report, then there’s no point in us hanging around waiting for a leader to be elected by Fine Gael,” Cowen said this morning.

They must oblige and honour the Dáil which represents the people in its efforts to bring about a credible solution to this problem so as to allow us to get it off the table and get the dead cat off the rug.

Last week’s spat was merely the latest threat to the government, which has been through many such gauntlets in recent months – the most recent being the furore surrounding the scandal involving Sergeant Maurice McCabe and Tusla, which has led directly to the Charleton Tribunal of Inquiry.

The final vote on the water committee’s recommendations has now been adjourned to next week, although little give has been seen on either side so serious questions remain as to whether those recommendations will in fact lead to legislation.

Meanwhile, it was revealed this morning that Irish Water last month paid performance-related awards (PRAs), averaging €4,799 in size, to all employees last month for work carried out in 2016.

Those payments, the company confirmed, were first approved by the Workplace Relations Commission in September 2015. They are the first such payments to be paid by Irish Water since 2013.

“All payments are fully taxable and non-pensionable,” the company said in a statement.

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