TD says hit water bill defaulters with fines

People refusing to pay water charges should be hit with rolling €10 monthly fines until they owe enough money to be brought to court by the State, a Government TD and member of the Dáil water committee has warned.

Fine Gael Cork South West TD Jim Daly insisted the €120 a year fines are needed to “focus minds” as he heavily criticised Government colleagues for seeking “illogical” refunds which would set a precedent that forces the State into similar TV licence fee or other bill u-turns.

Writing in today’s Irish Examiner just 24 hours after Fine Gael MEP and 2016 director of elections Brian Hayes said Government must consider giving people their money back to end the Irish Water debacle. Mr Daly said the move is not in Ireland’s interests.

And despite at least 10 Fine Gael TDs, a number of senators, the Independent Alliance and unaligned Independent Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone all seeking refunds, he said non-payers should instead be fined to force them to obey the law.

“The billing cycle at Irish Water has been paused, not ceased or discontinued.

“I suggest a penalty for late payments similar to the €10 per month added to the NPPR [non primary private residence] charge on second homes, which would focus minds and result in a significantly increased payment rate.

“The already legislated for attachment orders which allow for deductions from State payments would kick in on all bills which exceed the €500 threshold, thereby ensuring full compliance,” he said.

Under the proposal — which Mr Daly said is his personal view and not that of his party — if water charges return next year non-payers will be contacted and told they have a six-month “grace period” to pay the money owed.

He said if they do not, then for each month going forward in which they refuse to pay their water bill they will be hit with a €10 fine to bring their total debt above the €500, at which point they will face attachment orders and court action.

The proposal — which could see court cases by spring 2018 — is likely to cause another public row over Irish Water as it has been made by a Dáil water committee member just days before the cross-party group meets for the first time next week.

However, it is also certain to lead to further division within Government as the suggestion contradicts a wide range of ministers and backbenchers who have publicly called for water charge refunds, a list added to yesterday by MEP Brian Hayes.

Addressing the issue yesterday, Mr Daly said TDs calling for water charge refunds need to “take a step back and apply some logic”, claiming that if money is paid back a similar argument could be made for the TV licence and other State bills.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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