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Uisce Éireann

Irish language group says it won't pay €6,686 water bill over English language correspondence

Conradh na Gaeilge says it has a statutory right to access public services in Irish.

AN IRISH LANGUAGE organisation has been threatened with legal action by Uisce Éireann over a hefty water bill – but says it won’t pay because it hasn’t received the correspondence it needs through Irish.

Conradh na Gaeilge (CnaG) – an Irish language cultural and social organisation – currently owes €6,686.28 for water services for its business premises in Harcourt Street, Dublin 2. 

Uisce Éireann said it has investigated the issue. It said it had sent the original bill in Irish, and while collection notifications following non-payment of overdue bills were issued in English, it was happy to deal with customers through Irish in relation to their overdue bills and when making payments.

“We are contacting the customer to support them and will reissue the original bill to the customer should they wish,” the utility said.

CnaG confirmed it has received customer support from the utility through Irish.

The organisation said that it last received a bill in Irish for its regular six-month charge of €185.91 in 2021, along with arrears owed of over €5,000, also notified in Irish.

The organisation paid the regular charge, but requested further information in relation to the arrears owed.

It’s understood that no written explanation of the arrears owed has been issued in Irish, leading to the dispute between the two organisations. 

Caolán Mac Grianna of Cna G said: “Instead of sending us these bills they have sent us repeated legal threats as Béarla [in English].”

People in Ireland have a constitutional right to communicate with Government departments and public services through Irish. The Official Languages Act (2003) further requires Government departments and certain public bodies to provide services in Irish. 

Right to services in Irish 

In the latest letter to CnaG, Uisce Éireann – formerly Irish Water – says that the account is “Pending debt referral”.

“The above water services business account remains significantly overdue despite previous communications requesting payment,” the utility warned.

“The total balance due is €6,686.28. Your account may be escalated to our Legal Services Team if you do not pay your outstanding balance.”

Mac Grianna told TheJournal said: “We have the right the deal with public companies and public services through Irish.”

“Once we receive correspondence from them in Irish we’re happy to pay the bill,” he said.

“Even in the past week they’ve been in touch with us In Irish but we’re just waiting to get the bills through in Irish, which we’ll be happy to pay then.”

A spokesperson for Uisce Éireann told The JournaUisce Éireann that it was was ”committed to supporting customers who wish to communicate with us through Irish”.

It said that its support for customers who wish to communicate in Irish includes “issuing a bill in Irish on request”.

“In addition, where a member of the public communicates with Uisce Éireann in Irish, by email, by letter, or via social media, we provide a reply to that person in Irish,” they said.

When questioned on whether notices of overdue payments should be also be made in Irish, the spokesperson said:

While collections notifications are issued in English following non-payment of overdue bills, we will engage with customers through Irish should they want to engage on the notifications and make payment for water services used.