Charities urge the public to donate Irish Water refunds to tackle homelessness

People are being urged to donate their refunds from Irish Water to tackle the homeless crisis.

€173m will be handed back to almost one million customers over the coming months.

Simon Community, Focus Ireland and Peter McVerry Trust have teamed up to launch a new campaign encouraging those that can afford to donate, to do so.

"We're hoping that Irish people when they see the level of the refund, that it may be not as big as they expected, that they would give us the benefit of that generosity so we can put it towards the most deserving and most important cause in our country," Chair of the Refund Project Kieran Mulvey said.

There are more than 8,000 people in Ireland who are homeless, more than 3,000 of which are children.

Speaking jointly today, the 3 homeless charities said: “For many, including those struggling to keep a roof over their heads, the refund of water charges will help making ends meet.

"For others who are more fortunate it will be a welcome windfall and it is to those that we will direct this appeal. The issue of homelessness is very complex, but everybody has a role to play – government, charities and society."

Meanwhile, delays sending out the refunds are being blamed on Sinn Féin.

The Finance Minister claims the party wanted so many changes to the paperwork that it stopped the Government from passing legislation on time.

Refunds were supposed to be issued before Christmas, but it looks like some people will have to wait until the new year.

Sinn Féin's Eoin O'Broin has said those who can afford to donate the money should consider it.

"Keep in mind there will be people out there for whom this refund will be a godsend because they're so financially strapped for cash," he said.

"For those people who can afford it, absolutely I think they should consider the call by Peter McVerry and other organisations this morning," he added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has blamed left-wing parties and Independents for “holding up” water charges refunds to people due to their refusal to sign off on legislation before the Oireachtas.

Mr Varadkar made the claim as opposition parties criticised the Government for admitting the refunds are unlikely to be sent out until after Christmas.

Under plans announced by Mr Varadkar and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, it had been intended that people who paid their water charges would have the money returned to them by the end of the year.

The move was on condition the Water Services Bill would be passed by the Dáil and Seanad by mid-October. It would officially scrap general charges but see new “excessive usage” fees implemented in limited circumstances from 2018.

Speaking in the US, Mr Varadkar said he still wants to see the refunds take place “as soon as possible”.

He said opposition parties are to blame for the delay. “I always said refunds are contingent on legislation passing through the Dáil and Seanad, in which we don’t have a majority.

“I really would call on Sinn Féin and some left-wing parties and Independents to change their mind and support it. Get it through right away. They are holding up the refunds.”

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