Kenny refuses to rule out cutting off water supply

Thu, Apr 19, 2012, 01:00

THE TAOISEACH has refused to rule out householders losing their water supply if they decline to pay the proposed charges.

During repeated questioning in the Dáil yesterday, Enda Kenny said: “In respect of people being cut off . . . these are all matters for discussion about how the system is actually going to work . . .

“If you don’t pay your electricity bill, if you don’t pay your telephone bill, it is cut off.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald had sought an assurance from the Taoiseach that he would “not countenance in any circumstances cutting off water supply to homes across this State”.

She said she found it astonishing that the Taoiseach stated it would be a matter for discussion.

“That is a disgrace and I ask him, when he gets to his feet again in a moment, to make crystal clear to people who are very worried, as they watch this, that the water supply to their homes will not be jeopardised.”

Mr Kenny said a universal transmission for high-quality water was so important for both business and for personal life.

“Don’t say in this House that I said that people would have their water cut off,” he added. “There will be no bills of any description in respect of water for two years.”

Ms McDonald said she was asking about the guaranteed supply of water to homes.

Mr Kenny said they would respect the importance of consumer protection, which was a point he had made last year to all the regulators.

“The deputy need not run off now out of the chamber and make wild statements,” he added.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Government did not have a clear and detailed plan on how water metering was going to work. “This has been a shambolic and farcical situation,” he said.

Mr Martin claimed the “real scam” surrounding the issue related to the election commitments made by the Taoiseach and his colleagues last year.

In 2009, Labour had made its position very clear, indicating that “water is a basic and fundamental need and should not be treated like a market commodity”.

Mr Kenny said the Government had allocated responsibility for the establishment of Irish Water to Bord Gáis Éireann.

“The Government also made a decision that there would be no up-front charge and that charges would not be imposed until 2014,” he added. “The Government will also make the decision regarding the free allowance consumers will receive in respect of water.”

Independent TD Shane Ross said a standing charge of €40 or so would be used to repay a loan given by the National Pensions Reserve Fund. This contrasted with the manner in which the banks would never have to repay most of the money they had received from the fund.

“Why is this fund, which was pillaged by the banks for money they will not pay back, being loaned to people who are going to have to pay back?”

Mr Kenny said the reason for the loan being made in that way was to provide a commercial return for pensions for people in the future. “The Government, as the deputy will be well aware, does not have any pot of free money to allocate as it so wishes,” he added.