Irish Water bills will not ‘magically disappear’ - chief whip

Regina Doherty warns Government has ‘a long way to go’ before 50-50 gender balance

Regina Doherty on water charges: “The bills are legal, they’re valid, they will be collected. It mightn’t happen in the next couple of weeks but the bills are not going to magically disappear and I would advise people whether they’re elected or not elected to pay the bills.” File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Regina Doherty on water charges: “The bills are legal, they’re valid, they will be collected. It mightn’t happen in the next couple of weeks but the bills are not going to magically disappear and I would advise people whether they’re elected or not elected to pay the bills.” File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Irish Water bills are not going to “magically disappear” and must be paid by members of the public and the Dáil, according to new Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Ms Doherty advised that both the public and members of parliament pay their water bills until the charges are suspended in June at the end of the current billing cycle.

Ms Doherty’s new Cabinet colleagues, Finian McGrath and John Halligan, have said they oppose the water charges and have never paid their Irish Water bills.

“This isn’t just unique to people in Leinster House who possibly haven’t paid their water bills yet,” said Ms Doherty.

“It is the law, and if and when we pass a new piece of legislation to suspend the law, it doesn’t diminish the fact that it is the law and those outstanding bills need to be paid.

“People’s bills, whom they haven’t paid, are not going to suddenly disappear just because they may be suspended and we go back to the commission looking for expert guidance as to what we should do in the future.

Bills ‘valid’

“The bills are legal, they’re valid, they will be collected. It mightn’t happen in the next couple of weeks but the bills are not going to magically disappear and I would advise people whether they’re elected or not elected to pay the bills.”

Meanwhile, construction industry boss Tom Parlon told Newstalk Breakfast that Irish Water funding is going to cause problems for new Minister for Housing Simon Coveney.

“If we want to create 10,000 to 15,000 houses then we’re going to need services,” said Mr Parlon. “Bigger sites will require clean water and waste water services and substantial investment in water treatment.

“Irish Water as an entity is staying in place. The only change is to charges. That’s a difficulty, as the money will have to come from someplace.”

Dr Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in housing at DIT, said there are large sites near Dublin suitable for housing, but they cannot be built on because of a lack of water services.

He said the Minister should look for advisers from other departments as former minister for the environment Alan Kelly had been “poorly advised”.

Ms Doherty also said on Monday the Programme for Government will likely be revealed on Thursday, with junior ministries announced next week.

Gender balance

Asked whether she would like to see a greater gender balance with the appointment of new Ministers of State, Ms Doherty said her colleagues would be appointed based on talent, not gender.

She added her ambition to achieve greater gender equality within the Government had not gone away and that women have “an equal role in providing that we have balance in our public policy provisions and decisions”.

The Chief Whip warned that the Government has “a long way to go” before it can achieve 50-50 gender equality.

“When you have women sitting around the table, you do get better balance and that’s just a simple fact,” said Ms Doherty.

“We’re only at something like 18 per cent in the membership of this house. We have a long way to go to make sure we get to equal status in our parliamentarians.

“But definitely we’re on the right road to achieving gender balance.”