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'All bark and no bite': No one will be brought to court over water charges until 2017

Legislation published yesterday would also abolish imprisonment of people who refuse to pay.

Image: dog in bath image via Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been accused of making empty threats as legislation published yesterday indicated a roll back on suggestions that people who did not pay their water charges could face dire consequences.

The bill, which will be introduced in the Dáil this week, included two important details:

  • A person will only be taken to court when their debt reaches over €500, which would be in 2017 (after the general election);
  • No one will go to prison for non-payment.

Any court case would involve an application to enforce the debt either by taking it from a person’s earnings or from social welfare payments. Though the legislation applies to all consumer debts and can be used by small businesses who are looking to recoup payments, it is of particular interest in the context of water charges.

As promised, it specifically proposes to abolish imprisonment of debtors. This law, when enforced, will mean no Irish Water customer can be sent to jail for non-payment. Rather, the money would be forcibly taken from their wages or social welfare payments – if it even got as far as court.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) TD Paul Murphy claimed the legislation “takes the heat out of the government’s bullying” and demonstrates that it is “all bark and no bite”.

Murphy said even the deduction of payments from income would be far down the road and there are only so many people the company can bring to court anyway.

Irish Water has confirmed that around 70% of people have registered with Irish Water – which works out at around 1.32 million households.

The utility is still refusing to disclose how many individuals have paid their bills as it says the payment cycle has not come to an end.

The AAA politician called on those who are refusing to pay to stand strong and called on others to join the boycott, telling them this legislation means it is “safe” for them to do so.

Read: Thousands of people are FINALLY able to drink their tap water again>

Read: Irish Water workers set to keep fighting for bonuses>

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