‘The public have been mislead’ - McConalogue

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Inishowen Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue has hit out at the Government for falsely claiming that Ireland will be fined 26,000 euro a day if the controversial Septic Tank Bill is not enacted by the start of February.

Deputy McConalogue explained: “The Government is forcing the Septic Tank Bill through Committee stage this week without allowing adequate time for debate. To guillotine such an important piece of legislation at Committee stage is unacceptable.

“The Government have attempted to justify this by claiming that Ireland will incur fines of 26,000 euro a day from February 3rd unless the legislation is enacted by then. Fianna Fáil has since established, through contact with officials in the European Commission, that this is not true. The Commission has confirmed that the European Court will not make its ruling until the summer at the earliest, so fines cannot be imposed before then.

The Fianna Fail Deputy said the Environment Minister Phil Hogan and his Government have used false threats of imminent fines to bully the Oireachtas into passing this controversial piece of legislation quickly.

“This Bill has been met with strong opposition in Donegal and rural communities across the country, and it is quite clear to me that the Government feel it is in their interest to get it over and done with as a quick as possible. For them to stifle debate at Committee stage using false threats of fines from February 3rd is an affront to democracy.

The Carndonagh man added: “Fianna Fáil recognises the need to adhere to the European Court ruling and ensure our water systems are clean and safe. What we have always objected to is this Government’s attempts to make septic tank owners pay the entire cost of registration and upgrade works, when urban dwellers have the luxury of access to heavily subsidised sewerage schemes. Now that the office of the European Environment Commissioner has confirmed that fines will not be imposed on Ireland from the beginning of next month, the Government must provide adequate time for proper debate on the legislation in Committee this week.

“Septic tank owners in Donegal and across the country deserve answers about what this legislation will mean for them. So far Minister Hogan has refused to confirm what inspection standards will apply, raising concerns that any septic tank built before 2009 will fail inspection. The uncertainty about standards and costs has scared many households about the bills they will face under Minister Hogan’s Bill. It is time for the Minister to be upfront and honest with the people about his Bill,” concluded Deputy McConalogue.