Leo Varadkar doesn't think those who paid their water charges should be refunded

A Fine Gael minister says he believes there should not be refunds for those who paid water charges.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar also says those who did not pay should be pursued.

Last night, Finance Minister Michael Noonan suggested at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party that there was now enough money in the exchequer to make refunds if that is what is decided.

He told a meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators that exchequer returns for November would be €280m ahead of expectations.

It means the State would be able to afford refunds for the €144m paid in water charges last year - although Mr Noonan did not indicate whether he supported spending money for that purpose.

It remains unclear if those who refused to pay before the charges were suspended will be prosecuted.

But Minister Varadkar does not believe it should happen.

He said: "It's going to be up to the committee to make recommendations as to what we do now, but certainly my own view is that they shouldn't be refunded.

"The €140m that was paid went to Irish Water and went into our water network, and that's where we need more investment - not less.

"And for those who didn't pay, it's an unpaid bill and an outstanding debt - just like an unpaid ESB bill or an unpaid management charge.

"And ultimately eventually, one way or another, people will end up having to pay that bill."

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