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Alan Kelly Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Water Charges

People who don't pay water charges will NOT have their supply reduced or cut off, says Minister

Meanwhile, the EMC discussed water charges today and Enda Kenny and Joan Burton said their relationship is “very strong”.

Updated 7.10pm 

THE MINISTER FOR the Environment has confirmed that householders will not have their water supply cut off or reduced if they don’t pay the water charges.

Speaking at the Irish Water call centre in Cork this evening, Alan Kelly said he wanted to address concerns that “people may have about their water pressure being reduced to a trickle for non-payment”.

“I want to emphasise that I do not want to see this happening under any circumstances,” the Minister said.

He told reporters: “I feel the day of going out and saying that peoples’ water is going to be cut off or reduced to a trickle is over.”

I don’t think it’s appropriate to be using the language of going out and saying you’re going potentially to cut off people or reduce the pressure of their water.

“I probably don’t think it was helpful from day one… in fact I would say it wasn’t the approach that should have been taken.”

He said that “mistakes had been made” with Irish Water, but said he was “committed to fixing those mistakes and providing the public with the assurances and clarity they deserve”.

The Minister said the government wanted people to pay their bills and said charges, when they are announced, will be modest. He said “mechanisms” would be looked at to deal with people who don’t pay.

‘Very strong’

Earlier, Enda Kenny and Joan Burton both said their relationship is “very strong” amid evidence of tension between the two coalition parties over water charges.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste were both speaking after a meeting of the Economic Management Council (EMC) this morning where progress is said to have been made on exactly what households will have to pay for water.

The EMC – consisting of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister – met this morning to discuss the various options including capping charges for an extended period and addressing the level of charges for households with more than two adults.

Burton’s claim on Tuesday that a family of four, including two adult children, would face a water bill of less than €200 was later clarified as her expressing a “personal view”, but she insisted yesterday that she and the Taoiseach are “on the same page”.

Amid tension between the Fine Gael and Labour over what the final agreed water charges regime will be, Burton said today of her relationship with Kenny: “I think the relationship is a very strong, positive, working relationship.”

While the Taoiseach insisted: “Let me assure you that the relationship between the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach is very strong.”

‘Very solid progress’

This morning’s EMC meeting, which was also attended by Kelly and Communications Minister Alex White, made “a good deal of progress” on the issue, according to Kenny.

He said: “What we want – and we’re fully in agreement on this – is that these contributions should be clear, should be fair, should be affordable and that the system should be absolutely accountable.

“We did make quite a deal of good progress on a number of issues t hat we were reflecting on. I’m not going to mention any numbers here except that we’re all agreed that these figures of a contribution should be as low and as affordable and as fair as possible.

Burton said she was “very satisfied with the level of progress that we have been making and that we continued to make this morning”.

In the Dáil this afternoon, Burton repeatedly said that “very solid progress” has been made in relation to water charges.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley called for a special Dáil debate on water charges, saying that previous debate on Irish Water had been curtailed.

“You rammed it down the throats of the Irish people,” Dooley told the Tánaiste.

Burton insisted that the government’s objective was to have a charging regime “where there is affordability and where there is clarity and certainty in relation to the pricing structure”.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald demanded the abolition of water charges and a referendum on keeping Irish Water in public ownership.

In her response, Burton repeatedly referred to Gerry Adams’s attendance at a Sinn Féin fundraising dinner in New York this week. She claimed that the cost of the dinner is €500 per head, noting this is more than what the average water charges for a family will be.

Additional reporting by Christine Bohan

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