Irish Water ‘charging up to €12,000’ to connect houses

John McGuinness says new Bill would not stop utility being ‘gold-plated quango’

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Irish Water has been charging up to €12,000 to connect individual houses to the water mains, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said complaints had been made to him “about single household connections for water running at a rate of €10,000 to €12,000”.

He believed think it was another way of raising money and he warned the Government it had to set down “some form of guidelines and limits so that Irish water doesn’t run away with itself and see this as another soft touch in terms of raising funds”.

He said no criteria had been set down for the connection fees being imposed by Irish Water, which were considerably higher than that charged by local authorities.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said it was important to realise Irish Water would still be a “gold plated quango” and legislation before the Dáil would do nothing to change that.

Mr McGuinness was speaking during a late night ongoing debate on the Water Services Bill which he described as a “fudge”.

The Bill provides for refunds to people who have paid the charges and allows households to be fined for excessive use of water.

He questioned how the Government would measure the consumption of water for households which did not have a water meter.

And he warned that the legislation must make it quite clear that the State’s financial watchdog the Comptroller & Auditor General, “should be able to audit the spending of taxpayers’ money by Irish Water”.

He said €2.6 billion went into Irish Water up to the end of 2017 and it would take €1 billion a year to run and “it is collecting the commercial water charges”.

He also said both the local property tax and road taxes should go directly into the local government fund.

He said if money from motor taxes to the central fund it would inevitably contribute to Irish Water.

Suspicion

Mr McGuinness warned here was a lot of suspicion about the Bill and excessive usage, and the provision to allow the amount allowed be reduced.

He noted that Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy, who introduced the Bill, was not “particularly proud” of it.

He also said they had to “take out the ambiguity around an awful lot of the issues in the legislation” and “get real with the electorate”.

Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell said there were major concerns about the measures around excessive use and that the Minister would be allowed to cut the threshold at which householders could be fined.

“In a few years’ time we’ll see water charges returning through the back door and this is not good enough,” she warned.

The Dublin Bay North TD predicted that “we’re going to be back here in five years debating the gradual re-introduction of water charges”.

Her party colleague Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said Sinn Féin was “particularly concerned about the potential for financialisation and privatisation” in the Bill.

“Minister after minister has said they have no intention to privatise our water supply and I believe them I believe that it’s very likely the intention.”

He said he believed that was the case in many other countries when meters were put in “and it was 20 years down the road when it happened”.

Mr Ó Laoghaire said, in his view, “water will become more and more profitable and more of a commodity in the coming years and will become a target for profit”.

He said “that is one of the primary reason we oppose this”.

Debate on the Bill continues.