Former Minister involved with Irish Water hits out at company

Former Minister involved with Irish Water hits out at company

A former junior minister involved in setting up Irish Water is hitting out at the company's management.

A week after charges kicked in, Fergus O'Dowd says the utility has shown how good it is at "shooting itself in the foot from the very outset".

He is accusing Irish Water of coming across as uncaring and arrogant, and of failing to sell the message of why water charges are necessary.

In an opinion piece in today's Irish Independent, O'Dowd wrote: "in every high-level meeting I attended on the issue I made the point that disadvantaged groups must not suffer an unfair burden.

"It was also a key concern of mine that Irish Water did not become another cosseted quango with a bonus culture. Sadly the opposite has happened on these key issues and the Irish Water that exists today is not what I set out to create."

O'Dowd served as Minister of State for the NewEra project, which manages Government investment in semi-state companies. However, he lost that position in July's Cabinet reshuffle, as it was eliminated, and other TDs were selected to fill alternate roles.

"Where [Irish Water] abjectly failed is in selling its message to the people it was set up to serve," he said.

The Fine Gael TD for Louth is insisting he's been making his point on Irish Water for years, and it's just that people are listening to him now.

"There's no bad time to tell the truth and I'm telling the truth now," he said. "There's time for change - Irish Water can change.

"All of the money they're spending on advertising at the moment that I personally see is about filling in your form by the 30th of October – none of it is about the messages."

In a separate interview on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, O'Dowd claimed he had raised the issue of water poverty at every meeting he attended, but refused to name specific Government officials, saying he "wasn't personalising" the issue.

The Taoiseach responded by saying that everyone needs to understand the need for setting up Irish Water.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, the Taoiseach said he thinks Mr O'Dowd was just making the point that there is a need for constant engagement with people in relation to Irish Water.

"[He] was voicing concern about connecting with people in really explaining the reason for Irish Water, the options that are open," Mr Kenny said.

"He's just making the point that there's a need for constant engagement with the community and the people so that everyone understands."


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