Fine Gael’s attempts to disown the party’s key ‘NewERA’ policy on creating a new water company and the introduction of water charges is a u-turn too far, according to Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea.

“Responding to a question in the Dáil today on the timeline for the setting up of a new water company and the introduction of water charges, Minister of State with Responsibility for the NewERA Project Fergus O’Dowd said the only reason the Government is implementing any of these measures is because of commitments made by Fianna Fáil in Government under the Memorandum of Understanding agreed last November.

“This is completely false and I am surprised that Minister O’Dowd thought he could get away with such a misleading suggestion. Fine Gael’s plans for the setting up of a new water company introducing water charges featured heavily in its New Politics policy document published in March 2010 and also in its Reinventing Government policy document in early November 2010.  In fact, it was one of the high profile initiatives that was going to deliver some of the tens of thousands of new jobs that the party claimed would come with the implementation of its famous ‘Five Point Plan’!   The fact that it also appeared in the FG election Manifesto confirms that this is a policy Fine Gael is committed to pursuing in Government.

“Minister O’Dowd also refused to make any commitment to job security for the 3,500 people currently working on the water programme in local authorities around the country. I find this extremely worrying given that thousands of jobs will be on the line if services are eventually transferred to a new water company.

“I am calling on Minister O’Dowd to clarify why the legislative agenda does not include legislation to establish a water company, considering that Minister O’Dowd said himself today that would require significant legal changes. Did Minister O’Dowd get it completely wrong or is Fine Gael content to just conduct another u-turn without any explanation?” concluded Deputy O’Dea.