Martin challenges scale of financial return from Irish Water in exchanges

McDonald claims Wicklow County Council threatens tenants with eviction if they fail to pay charges

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin challenged the scale of the financial return from Irish Water in Dáil exchanges with Tánaiste Joan Burton.

He claimed it did not justify the yield by any business model.

“All of that does not justify the yield of about €150 million. While I am not even suggesting this, putting 5 cent on a gallon of petrol would have raised the equivalent amount of revenue.’’

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil had done its own calculations and looked at responses to parliamentary questions from Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, who had estimated there would be gross revenue of €300 million from domestic charges.


That did not factor in the €65 million for the household benefits package or the €40 million for the tax credit, and he presumed more would have to be done for the 200,000 people not covered by either the benefits package or the tax exemption.

Revenue figure

Therefore, said Mr Martin, even with 100 per cent compliance they were now looking at a net revenue figure of some €175 million. If there was anything less than full compliance they were looking at less than €150 million. Yet the Government has spent €650 million on Irish Water start-up costs.

Ms Burton said the creation of Irish Water was as big an undertaking as the creation of the ESB as a major public utility company. It was a publicly owned water service which was in State ownership and would remain so.

She said it would allow for an investment in the next couple of years of €1.7 billion in a public utility owned by the State, which, like the ESB, would be able to raise money internationally.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed Wicklow County Council had warned tenants in a letter they could be evicted if they failed to pay water charges.

Ms McDonald said the letter was sent to RAS tenants, those availing of the rental accommodation scheme administered by the Department of the Environment. “So now do we not alone have a threat to the supply of water, potential court action, we discover that the very roof over people’s heads may be in jeopardy.’’

Threatening letter

Ms McDonald, who said there were 36.00 families covered by the RAS scheme, asked how the Tánaiste had authorised the issuing of such a threatening letter. “I want you to make it clear to those families and to local authority tenants that nobody will be evicted because they cannot pay the water charges.’’

Ms Burton said she understood that councillors representing Sinn Féin, Independents and Fianna Fáil controlled Wicklow County Council.

“Can I suggest that when you get time out of your busy schedule you make a call to your own public representatives who serve on that county council and you suggest to them they might have a conversation with the management of the local authority ?’’

Ms McDonald accused Ms Burton of not giving “a toss about struggling families’’, adding that her reply was dismissive and inaccurate.

“You stand up and give me a smart alec response. I am sorry, that is not good enough.’’

She said local authority management administered Government policy. Council management, on the Government’s behalf, had written to tenants.

Ms Burton said she was not sure that Ms McDonald had much personal experience of what it was like not to be well off or to be unemployed.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times