An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showing that less half of households intend to pay the water charges has been described as "disastrous" news for the Government.
Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy said the concessions announced last month by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly on water charges were "gaining no traction whatsoever" and that 33 per cent had already decided not to pay four months before the first bills issue.
“This is disastrous for the Government,” he said. “They haven’t and won’t be able to stem the revolt underway against water charges and austerity in general.”
When asked if their households intended to pay the charge, 48 per cent of poll respondents said Yes and 33 per cent said No, with 11 per cent undecided and 8 per cent saying the issue did not apply to them.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said nobody was "over the moon" about paying for water but most understood it needed to be metered and that the Government had to see the process through.
Mr Varadkar told RTÉ Morning Ireland that when people who were undecided about paying the charges or who said the charges did not apply to them were excluded, it appeared a significant majority would be paying.
“We actually owe it to the people who do pay to make sure that those who don’t are required to,” he said.
Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said people who failed to pay the charges would face fines but not for at least 15 months. Legislation underpinning the water regime, including the non-payment sanctions, would be put in place after Christmas, he said.
Mr Kelly said the number of people registering for the charges had increased dramatically since he announced a revised water package last month and that "over 920,000" had now sent their details to Irish Water.
Under the package announced by Mr Kelly a household that does not register will get a default bill for €260 each year and will not be entitled to a €100 conservation grant.
Irish Water will not have the power to reduce the supply in cases where water charges are not paid but customers who do not enter into a payment plan face late payment penalties of €30 for a single adult household and €60 for other households.
Mr Varadkar questioned the wisdom of people being told not to pay the charges and said that many in his constituency, which he said was dominated by far left politicians, did not pay previous charges and had been left with substantial bills while the politicians had moved on to other campaigns.
The poll also asked respondents about a protest in Jobstown in Tallaght last month in which Tánaiste Joan Burton was trapped in her car for more than two hours. Mr Murphy was involved in the demonstration and faced criticism in the aftermath. Just 24 per cent of respondents said the protest was peaceful while 60 per cent said that it was not. Eleven per cent had no opinion while 5 per cent were unaware of the protest.
Mr Murphy said the findings of the opinion poll did not change the facts of what happened and he stood over his view that the protest was peaceful. He said a significant campaign led by Labour members and sections of the media may have had an influence on the response but he did not see it affecting the numbers who would attend a protest in Dublin on Wednesday.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in an anti-water charge protest organised by the Right to Water Campaign in Dublin on Wednesday.