Ministers will have to pay water charges on second homes

Anti-water charge campaigners to return water forms in a wheelie bin

Campaigners against water charges will return Irish water application packs - in a wheelie bin - to the utility’s headquarters in Talbot Street this morning.

Campaigners against water charges will return Irish water application packs - in a wheelie bin - to the utility’s headquarters in Talbot Street this morning.

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is to amend legislation to prevent Government Ministers from claiming an income tax deduction on water charges on their second homes.

Under current legislation, any Government Minister or Minister of State who lives outside Dublin but whose official duties as an office holder requires them to maintain a second residence in the capital can claim a deduction on expenses incurred in maintaining their second home.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams raised the issue in the Dail yesterday, noting that under the 1997 Taxes Consolidation Act, all Government Ministers “who maintain a second residence shall be granted a deduction in water charges under the dual abode allowance”.

In a statement today, the Department of Finance said Mr Noonan would make an amendment to Section 836 of the Act to “exclude bills from Irish Water as a deductible expense”.

Meanwhile, an anti-water charge protest in Dublin today was told water usage figures have been underestimated, and a family of four will pay up to €900 per year.

Speaking as the group “We Won’t Pay”, returned a wheelie bin full of water application Packs to Irish Water, former MEP Paul Murphy said “people simply will not be able to pay”.

Predicting widespread unrest when households received their full, metered bills , Mr Murphy said an “average family” of two adults and two children would face bills in the region of €500, but a family of two parents and two adult children could face bills of up to €900.

He accused the Government and Irish Water of deliberately underestimating the amount of water required by families. It was he said just “another tax to pay for the bankers and bondholders”.

The demonstration outside the headquarters of Irish Water in Talbot Street also saw campaigners set up a stall to give out “free water” to passing locals and shoppers. One local resident Catherine O’Neill who posed for photographs with a glass of water responded: “No I did not” when asked if she had filled in her water application pack.

Bernadette Rynne from Clonsilla, said she was not prepared “to deprive my children simply to pay water charges”. She would she said be prepared to go to court over the issue.

Ms Rynne said an attempt had been made in the 1990s to introduce water charges which failed after widespread public protest. “We can do that again” she said.

A number of water application packs being returned in the wheelie bin were addressed to “The Occupant”. Others were addressed to named individuals. Many bore handwritten messages for Irish Water, particularly the slogan “no contract, no agreement”, a move encouraged by an ongoing Facebook campaign.

Mr Murphy said the We Won’t Pay campaign did not promote the “no contract no agreement” slogan but said it was reflective of widespread opposition to the charges.

He instanced the Whitechurch Estate in Rathfarnham in south Dublin, Edenmore in Raheny on the northside of the city and Togher in Cork as examples of areas where Irish Water’s agents had been forced to retreat.

Mr Murphy also said there was considerable potential for an anti-water charge campaigner to take the seat in the Dublin Southwest constituency byelection, where he and many of the other candidates are opposed to the charge.

Irish Water declined to provide figures on the number of locations where it had not been possible to install meters, due to protests. It said it had experienced “pockets of protests across the country”the majority of which were were peaceful and without incident.

The utility said it respects the right to protest “and endeavours to facilitate this right in so far as is reasonably possible, while maintaining the safety of the staff, the public and the site of work”. But it said installations were now running at one every 20 seconds and to date had installed more than 425,000 meters.