Irish Water is to invest €200m in improving Cork’s water services, which the chief executive of the utility’s parent company said will fuel economic growth in the region.
The investment will help a range of companies across a number of industries and drive economic expansion, said Michael McNicholas, chief executive of Ervia.
“In investing €200m in Cork over the next three years, we’re going to rehabilitate the network, so that you’ve much more resilience in your clean water supply.
“We’re going to make sure that you’ve got redundancy, so that if there are issues with some plants, we’ll be able to continue to supply [water] and we’re going to make sure you have the ability to treat all of the waste water that’s in the city, which gives a massive capability for Cork to expand economically and gives a huge opportunity in terms of agri, in terms of pharma, [and] in terms of tourism,” Mr McNicholas said.
The Ervia chief, who heads up the company that has responsibility for Irish Water and Gas Networks Ireland, also says that major banks are approaching the water utility with billions of euro they’re willing to “put to work”.
He said that having been told that it would be unable to borrow money, it had done so and at incredibly competitive rates.
Speaking at the Cork Chamber Business Breakfast at the the Cork International Hotel, Mr McNicholas said the embattled utility “got it almost, if not [fully] right, in terms of setting up the utility and doing the job”, but admitted that the public relations side of its establishment could have been handled better.
Referring to the huge groundswell of opposition to the utility over the past 18 months, Mr McNicholas said the setting up of Irish Water might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back and maybe “emotionally, as a country, at a certain point something had to give and people had to have a vent“.
In terms of the company’s failure to pass the key Eurostat Market Corporation Test, in July, which means Irish Water’s debt remains on the State’s balance sheet, and which was branded by Finance Minister Michael Noonan as an embarrassment, the Ervia chief said “so be it, a utility doesn’t get built in a year or two. Utilities are long-term infrastructure companies.”
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