Cowen demands clarity on Irish Water direct debits

Fianna Fáil environment spokesperson Barry Cowen has called for Irish Water to clarify how many people have cancelled their direct debit payments after the utility refused to provide any information on the matter.

The opposition TD said “nothing surprises me” about Irish Water’s approach to transparency and that its ongoing problems are the reason why “there won’t be an early election” after a spokesperson for the company declined to make the details public.

In a statement responding to recent claims by anti-water charge campaigners that one in five people who paid their first bills have cancelled direct debits due to the low uptake nationwide, Irish Water said the figures remain healthy.

The spokesperson said while customers “can alter their payment method” from one bill period to the next, the number of direct debits continues to rise “as a total figure and as a proportion of total customers” — calculations which are not the same as the number of people who have cancelled the money transfers.

Mr Cowen, Fianna Fáil environment spokesperson, said the lack of clarity demands answers, but that the refusal to provide basic information is nothing new with the firm.

“Nothing surprises me about any answer given by Irish Water or anybody representing them or Government in relation to how they handle these issues,” Mr Cowen said.

“There’s a huge weight of expectation on my part and others on how the Government might seek to respond to the issues which have emerged with Irish Water. I think that and other issues over the course of the summer ensured one thing, I doubt if we’ll have an early election.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has denied one of its most prominent MEPs, Lynn Boylan, has called on EU member states to impose a “progressive charge” on water usage after she appeared to back the call in a report by a European parliament environment committee report which she chairs.

While the party argued Ms Boylan’s position is that a progressive charge involves “general taxation”, Labour yesterday welcomed the opposition MEP’s “u-turn”.

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