The Government has seriously misled the Dáil and the public by claiming that fines will be imposed on Ireland if the Septic Tank Bill is not passed by February 3rd, according to Fianna Fáil Deputy Leader Éamon Ó Cuív.
Deputy Ó Cuív was told by Minister Ruairí Quinn during Order of Business in the Dáil yesterday that the controversial Bill is being guillotined at Committee stage because the European Commission will fine Ireland €26,000 a day unless the legislation is in place by February 3rd. Deputy Ó Cuiv has since contacted Commission and has established that this is not true.
The Commission has confirmed to Fianna Fáil that the European Court of Justice case is ongoing and the court won’t reach its findings until the Summer at the earliest, so fines cannot be imposed before then.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “The Government has used threats of imminent fines to force the House into hurried decisions that will have very serious consequences for hundreds of thousands of home owners across the country. It has now been confirmed to me by the European authorities that these threats are false.
“The European Commission has informed me that the European Court of Justice won’t reach its findings until the Summer at the earliest. They also confirmed that it is not true that Ireland will incur fines if the Bill is not passed by Feb 3rd.
“From the very start, Minister Hogan and his Government colleagues have attempted to bully the Irish people into accepting the septic tank legislation without allowing proper debate and providing adequate information about standards and costs. Minister Hogan has accused me directly of ‘scaremongering’. I have argued all along that I recognise the need to register our septic tanks, ensure our water systems are clean and adhere to the European Court order. However, I am against this Government’s attempts to push the entire cost of this process directly onto septic tank owners and to ignore their questions about inspection standards and resulting costs. Nothing has scared septic tank owners more than the uncertainty Minister Hogan has created. Now he and his Government are using scare tactics by falsely threatening EU fines from next month if they do not get their way.”
Deputy Ó Cuív raised the issue as a Point of Order in the Dáil this morning, asking that the two votes taken on the Bill yesterday be declared null and void as they were based on incorrect information.
He said: “If Deputies had been given the correct information yesterday, they would have agreed that guillotining such an important Bill sends out the wrong message about how we do our work.”