Any claim that the EU Water Framework Directive will force any new government to retain water charges is entirely false, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming.

Deputy Fleming has said the ‘polluter pays’ principal in the directive does not bind Ireland to the imposition of domestic water charges.

“We absolutely contest the legal advice being put forward by Irish Water. It’s important to recognise that this legal advice was commissioned by Irish Water, and it should be examined with caution in light of this. It’s extraordinary to see Irish Water quoting EU rules as sacrosanct considering they failed to meet the key Eurostat market test last year,” said Deputy Fleming.

“Under Article 9 of the Directive, Member States are required to ensure the price charged to water consumers, both domestic and non-domestic, for the distribution of fresh water and treatment of waste water – reflects the true costs.

However Member States have a clear opt-out clause (Article 9.4) from domestic water user charges, which allows that Member States may “take account of the social, environmental and economic effects of water usage in recovering the costs of water services.”

“Even without the opt-out clause in Article 9.4 of the EU water directive, the government’s own flat-rate water charges would not be compliant with the principle of incentive water pricing included in the directive. We do not believe there is any basis for concluding from the directive that any future Irish government is tied to water charges. In fact, we believe it is entirely possible for the next government to suspend water charges and invest in our water infrastructure.

“The Fianna Fáil position on water charges has not changed. We do not support the continued imposition of water charges on households. It remains Fianna Fáil’s position that priority must be given to investing in our water infrastructure, repairing leaks and improving water quality.”