Opposition to water charges off agenda, says Alan Kelly
Minister for the Environment says water charges takes up “3-5% of my time” now
Alan Kelly said housing and homelessness is more of a concern, and takes up 50% of his times. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Water and opposition to water charges have “gone off” the agenda, according to Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly.
Speaking as anti-water charges protesters prepare for a sixth national day of protest at the end of the month, the Minister said the issue took up “3-5 per cent” of his time. He said more than half of Irish Water’s 1.5 million customers were now paying their water bills, a payment rate which took RTÉ more than 20 years to achieve with the television licence.
Asked when the most up-to-date payment figures would be published, he said he didn’t know and that it was a matter for Irish Water.
“I tell you how much water has gone off my agenda . . . it wouldn’t even enter my head when they are going to publish the figures,” he said.
“It’s not something they post out to me. Put it this way: what Irish Water achieved in relation to people paying their water bill in six months, it took RTÉ 20 years, with getting the licence fee payments up over 50 per cent.”
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Brendan Ogle, co-founder of the Right2Change movement which grew out of the anti-water charges protests, described Mr Kelly’s comments on water as “arrogant”.
“At a time when people are struggling, at historic levels, to provide for their families, for him to dismiss the biggest social protest movement in decades shows he is completely unfit to be a Labour Party minister,” he said.
Mr Ogle said water charges remained a “huge issue” for people across the State and the charges would be a “central” issue in the general election.
“If it only occupies 3-5 per cent of his time, it underlines just how completely the Labour Party has disconnected from what should be its own constituency. We have always said the protests were not only about water,” he said.
“Water is a totem, a focus of protest against the gross inequalities and austerity visited on Irish citizens by this Labour-supported Government. His comments show Labour is unfit for Government.”