Fianna Fáil has warned that there will be a problem if the Government does not introduce legislation to abolish water charges.

The party's education spokesperson, Thomas Byrne, effectively backed up an earlier threat from Barry Cowen that his party would not facilitate the election of a new Fine Gael leader if legislation is not forthcoming.

However speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, Mr Byrne would not set a deadline for the legislation, insisting instead that reaching consensus on the issue was more important than deadlines.

Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan said the Government must act within the law but added that the heat must be taken out of the debate, describing it as "withering" for the public.

The special Oireachtas committee looking at water charges is set to sign off on its recommendations next Tuesday with Fine Gael still opposed to the current draft report.

The Dáil must vote on the committee's recommendations within one month.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that 675 staff at Irish Water last month each received a bonus payment of almost €4,800 on average, or €3.2m in total.

Details of bonus payments were secured by the Sunday Independent.

In a statement to RTÉ News this morning, Irish Water said no performance-related awards were paid in Irish Water in 2014, 2015 or 2016.

A 2015 Workplace Relations Commission recommendation said that the pay model of Ervia - the semi-State company responsible for Irish Water - should be restored in full this year.