Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government Barry Cowen has slammed the efforts by Fine Gael and other pro-water charges elements to spin a recent parliamentary reply issued by the European Commission regarding the Water Framework Directive.
Deputy Cowen made the comments following a media report which stated that Ireland is not exempt from water charges. The Fianna Fáil Spokesperson says the claims are deeply misleading and completely fail to deal with the actual substance of the written reply by the Commission.
“Efforts have been made to spin a parliamentary reply issued by the European Commission in a last ditch effort to maintain the current failed water charges system. Clearly the reply is being aggressively spun by those who want to see the reintroduction of charges,” said Deputy Cowen.
“When the parliamentary reply is examined objectively it’s clearly evident that it in fact confirms that, under article 9.4 of the Water Framework Directive, a derogation is allowed under ‘established practice’. In Ireland this established practice refers to the meeting of water costs through general taxation. This position was confirmed through a parliamentary reply issued to the then MEP Alan Kelly in 2010. The reply clearly confirms that ‘established practice’ refers to when the directive was first implemented in 2003. Our legal advice also supports this position.
“It’s laughable to hear Deputy Alan Kelly taking to the airwaves and spinning this parliamentary reply in order to defend his disastrous implementation of water charges. He is attempting to claim that his imposition of water charges now represents established practice, even though previous replies issued directly to him make it clear this is not the case. Deputy Kelly is also attempting to confuse the situation with his red herring comments about the River Basin Management Plan.
“It’s disingenuous to claim that established practice refers to the current haphazard implementation of water charges. This claim is easily dismissed when you consider the high rate of non-compliance with the charges, the fact that the Government is heavily subsidising bills and Irish Water’s failure to pass the Eurostat test. This is far from ‘established practice’.
“The issue of water charges will be dealt with by the Expert Commission and Special Oireachtas Committee. The Dáil will consider this when it votes on the future of water charges. Fianna Fáil successfully reintroduced democratic legitimacy to water policy in our negotiations with Fine Gael – it is now the Dáil that will decide the future of charges and no one else. We will not allow dishonest spinning of parliamentary replies to influence Irish democratic policy making,” said Deputy Cowen.