Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has said that it is “not realistic” to be “going out and saying you're going to potentially cut off people or reduce the pressure of their water” – but stopped short of ruling it out altogether.
Minister Kelly was speaking on a visit to the company's contact centre in Cork.
“We had a number of meetings today in Government in relation to Irish Water, and they will continue, and we’re making a lot of progress,” he told reporters.
“I feel the day of going out and saying that people’s water is going to be cut off or reduced to a trickle is over, and I’d like to say that to people across the country, I don’t think it’s realistic to be going around saying that.
“We want people to comply, obviously, we want people to engage with Irish Water, we want them to become customers of Irish Water.
“What we want to do is to create a process whereby people pay their bills, their bills will be modest, the Government aims to ensure that the charges are modest and are going to be determined for a number of years so we can have certainty and clarity.
"But, being realistic, I don't think it's appropriate to be using the language of going out and saying you're going to potentially cut off people or reduce the pressure of their water.
"I probably don't think it was helpful from Day One, and maybe wasn't the approach that should have been taken, in fact I would say it wasn't the approach that should have been taken."
“It’s never the ambition to cut off anyone’s water, I would say that out straight, and the Government are looking at other mechanisms to try and bring people with us.
“It’s important now that we bring people with us in relation to the creation of this utility. Irish Water and the creation of Irish Water is the right thing to do… I think that going around and telling people that you are potentially going to cut off their water or reduce it, I don’t think it was necessarily the right way to go.
When asked for a yes-or-no answer regarding if people’s water will be cut or reduced, he said: “The message is quite clear – I don’t advocate or don’t ever want to see anyone going out to cut off anyone’s water.
“Can I be any clearer than that?”
He also criticised what he called a “fringe element” in the anti water-charge movement.
“I respect the right to protest, I’ve protested a lot myself down through the years, so I respect that right totally,” he said.
“But I do think that some of the stuff that workers have been put through in the last few weeks and months is totally unacceptable. I think there’s a fringe element to some of the protests which, put simply, is not nice … I’d be concerned with it.”