Irish Water and its parent company Ervia (formerly Bord Gáis) yesterday accepted it had made mistakes and had failed to achieve public trust and confidence in its first year of operation.
In a joint statement responding to the Government announcement of a revised charging structure for water services, Ervia chief executive Michael McNicholas and Irish Water CEO John Tierney welcomed the changes, saying they had "given much clarity to the public".
Mr McNicholas also referred to the semi-State company’s decision not to pay the 2013 and 2014 performance-related awards to Irish Water employees saying its pay model will now be independently reviewed.
“There has been considerable concern raised by the public in relation to all of these matters. We did not get it right and we have not met the needs or the expectations of the Irish public and for that I unreservedly apologise.”
Mr McNicholas also said the national water service is inadequate at present and needs to be upgraded to make it fit for purpose. He said the supply to nearly 900,000 people was at risk of disruption or contamination and that some 20,000 homes had contaminated water that needed to be boiled before being safe to drink.
Referring also to problems with raw sewage and leaks, he said: “This is not a sustainable way to deliver essential services. We run the risk of not having the necessary infrastructure and water capacity to meet basic needs for our society or to support longer-term economic growth. This is the challenge that Irish Water was set up to address.”
Mr Tierney said Irish Water has had a very difficult first year. “We have not responded quickly enough to legitimate concerns on a number of issues. I apologise for that. Our sole focus now is on ensuring Irish Water and its vitally important national project of improving our water services secures public support, and becomes a service of which the country can be proud.”
Saying Irish Water needed to regain trust, he said the company would no longer seek PPS numbers and remove those currently held. “Our job now is to continue to make long-overdue improvements to our water services and to win the confidence of the public in the process,’’ said Mr Tierney.
The Right 2 Water campaign vowed to continue its campaign for complete abolition of water charges which it said was now in the “home straight”.
Its protest outside the Dáil, scheduled for December 10th, will still go ahead. “People power has forced the Government to abandon a number of key elements of its water policy – from the intrusive gathering of PPS numbers to the ‘water trickle’ sanction for non-payers. Most importantly, the level of charges has been significantly reduced,” said a statement from the campaign headquarters.
“In its attempt to stem the tide of public outrage, however, the Government has now introduced what is basically a new flat-rate home tax – one which will see a low-income family in rented accommodation paying the same as an affluent household in an owner-occupied mansion. At the same time, any pretence at conservation has been abandoned.”
The The Irish Property Owners Association, representing property owners and landlords, welcomed the clarification that the responsibility for the water bills would fall on the occupiers of properties.