Kelly stays vague on penalty for unpaid water charges

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said that the days of threatening those who refuse to pay water charges with a cut in their supply are over — but refused to be drawn on what sanctions await those who ignore their Irish Water bills.

Mr Kelly made the comments as he and Irish Water managing director John Tierney visited the utility’s call centre in Mahon in Cork.

“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. I’d like to say that to people across the country. We want people to comply, obviously we want people to engage with Irish Water. We want them to become customers of Irish Water,” said Mr Kelly.

“Now, if there are people out there as a result that still feel aggrieved, then we have to engage in a process with them and that needs to be done too. We have to address their concerns. But, finally, if there are people then who simply will just ‘full stop’ say they are never, ever going to pay, obviously from a government point of view, we’re going to have to look at mechanisms by which we’re going to deal with that.”

Mr Tierney said he believed the public would pay their water charges.

“If you look at all of the property tax, the household charge, all of the different charges that were introduced in recent years, the vast majority of Irish people paid those charges. Indeed, in the property tax, it’s over 90%,” he said.

Mr Kelly also said that he disagreed with Labour Party colleague Senator John Whelan who said that the Government was “misled” on the establishment of Irish Water.

“I heard about those comments. I know John is very determined in his views and he is very passionate about his views. I think there were a lot of mistakes. I think the way in which the set-up of Irish Water was considered could have been done in a different way.

“I wouldn’t necessarily go down the line of saying that anyone was misled, because I wouldn’t think that’s appropriate. But I certainly think mistakes were made.”

Meanwhile, a judge has revised an exclusion order against water charges protesters to state that it does not apply to residents going to or leaving their own homes.

On Wednesday, the High Court granted water meter installer GMC Sierra injunctions preventing members of the public from going within 20m of a public road or footpath where the company’s workers are installing meters.

It followed an application from GMC Sierra which claimed its workers were being harassed and threatened by anti-water charge protesters.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan called back lawyers for the interested parties.

The judge said he wanted to suggest amending it to read that the exclusion zone should not apply to “residents of the road who are accessing or leaving their own houses”.

There was no objection from lawyers from any of the parties.

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