Have you paid your Irish Water bill? Deputy Murphy thinks most people haven’t…
Deputy Paul Murphy has brought up the issue of Irish Water bills in the Dáil. The TD highlighted the fact Irish Water won’t tell him how many people have paid their bills.
When Murphy asked the Taoiseach about the issue last month, Enda Kenny told him to “toddle along” to a meeting with Irish Water in Leinster House later that day. The Dáil was suspended on two occasions afterwards because of a row over Kenny telling Murphy and his colleague Ruth Coppinger “where to go”.
When Murphy was unable to get answers at the meeting, he submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. However Murphy was not satisfied with the response he got from Irish Water, saying the utility told him disclosure “could result in undue disturbance of the ordinary course of business”.
Deputy Murphy continued by saying Irish Water confirmed that as of 18 May it had issued 1,282,067 bills to customers. Of these, a total of 788,831 were due for payment.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton was answering Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil due to the Taoiseach being out of the country.
Deputy Murphy questioned why he wasn’t given the numbers, asking Bruton: “Could that be because payment levels are on the floor, minister? And disclosure of the figures would undermine your scare campaign?”
Bruton suggested Murphy appeal the FOI decision if he’s unhappy with it, telling him: “I don’t have the information that the deputy seeks here available to me.” The minister continued by saying that Irish Water is an “important national structure” that will help deal with leaks, raw sewage and the fact that Dublin’s “supply system on a knife edge”.
Murphy said it is “simply not credible” that the government hasn’t discussed level of payment with Irish Water, and the only conclusion he could come to was that the coalition is “hiding the figure, whereas you boasted about the bloated registration figures, because the figures are on the floor”.
Deputy Murphy went on to say the claim that the government can take the charge from people’s wages or social welfare payments is a “dirty lie”.
When Murphy said Minister Bruton had not answered the question he asked, the Ceann Comhairle told him it wasn’t his place to answer questions but to chair, stating: “Listen, you’ve had your say, will you stay quiet please.”
Below is the response to Deputy Murphy last month, by Noel Shannon, the FOI officer at Irish Water’s parent company Ervia:
“Releasing information relating to bill payment rates even before all bills have been issued is clearly premature and would unduly impact upon Irish Water’s ordinary course of business.
“In my view the most important public interest at issue is that Irish Water be afforded the opportunity to operate as a high performing commercial utility company and to bring about reform of Ireland’s water sector, on behalf of all the Irish people.”