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Irish Water thinks it's better you don't know how many bills have been paid

Anti-austerity TD Paul Murphy has been thwarted in his efforts to find out how many bills have been paid.

IRISH WATER IS still refusing to disclose how many people have paid their water charges, citing commercial sensitivity and public interest as the reasons for doing so.

The controversial utility has been issuing its first bills to households across the country since the beginning of April.

It has confirmed that as of 18 May this year it has issued 1,282,067 bills to customers. Of these, a total of 788,831 are due for payment having been issued more than 14 days previous to 18 May.

The information was revealed to the Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy in response to a Freedom of Information Request.

paul-13-may-630x332 Paul Murphy

But the utility refused Murphy’s request for details on the number of bills paid as of 18 May, citing commercial sensitivity as well as concerns about the impact on Irish Water’s “ordinary course of business”.

He raised the matter in the Dáil earlier this month, prompting heated exchanges in which the Taoiseach told Murphy to “toddle along” to a meeting between Irish Water and Oireachtas members to find out how many bills had been paid.

When he was refused the information at that meeting, the Dublin South-West TD submitted an FOI.

In his response to Murphy, Noel Shannon, the FOI officer at Irish Water’s parent company Ervia, said:

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.

Irish Water 1 Page 1 of Irish Water's response to Murphy

IW 2 Pages 2 and 3 of Irish Water's response to Murphy

Shannon also revealed that the public interest was best served by not releasing the information:

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.

“Therefore I believe that the public interest is best served in this instance by not releasing the information requested in the third and final part of your FOI request,” he said.

Murphy told TheJournal.ie today that he intended to appeal the ruling and described Irish Water’s response as “incredible”.

He said: “One reason Irish Water refuses to give the information is that it is commercially sensitive. This is simply not credible, given that Irish Water has a monopoly and is not in competition with any other company who could take advantage of the figures.

Anti Water Charges Campaigns Source: Leah Farrell/Photocall Ireland

“The most ridiculous reason given is the suggestion that the ‘public interest is best served … by not releasing the information….’  Irish Water and the government were very quick to give a running total on registration rates for water charges when they thought it suited them to do so.

Irish Water and the water charges has been the subject of massive public controversy and the Anti-Austerity Alliance and others have called for people to refuse to pay. It is self-evident, that it is in the interest of the public to see what level of people have paid.

He said it was likely that payment levels are so low that if published they would give confidence to others to refuse to pay.

Murphy added: “It also explains the government’s bluff, trying to scare people with the suggestion that they can introduce legislation to take the water charges from people’s income, when they simply legally will not be able to do so without court cases.”

Previously: Irish Water is refusing to say how many people have paid their bills

Read: Dáil suspended TWICE after Enda Kenny tells Socialist TDs ‘where to go’

 

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Hugh O'Connell

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