Bill payments to Irish Water plummeted by almost 50% in April and May.
According to latest figures released by the utility, customers paid €18.3m during the fifth billing cycle. This is down from €33.4m for the previous quarter — a drop of 45%. The planned nine-month suspension of domestic water charges was announced by the Government as the fifth bill was issuing to customers.
Irish Water said 989,000 customers have “paid some or all of their domestic water charges over the first five bill cycles”, with 14,000 paying for the first time during the latest billing period.
Responding to the figures, Sinn Féin spokesman on water Eoin Ó Broin TD said they show that domestic charges are no longer viable.
“Irish Water has only managed to collect 27% of the charge due this quarter compared to 49% in the last quarter, 62% in the third quarter, 56% in the second quarter and 45% in the first quarter,” he said.
“These massive slumps in payment rates show clearly that water charges have no future. With the government and Fianna Fáil still only advocating for a temporary suspension of the charges, it appears they are not listening to the people.”
Mr Ó Broin called on the Government to legislate directly for the abolition of domestic water charges.
“Everything else is only kicking the can down the road. Water charges will remain the most contentious of political issues until this government and Fianna Fáil accept that last February the majority of people voted to scrap water charges and abolish Irish Water,” he said.
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Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Mick Barry said the figures show “a massive rejection” of water charges by the Irish people.
“Over the last 18 months we have said that there were many people who only paid because they felt bullied or intimidated into it by the Government and Irish Water’s threats,” he said.
“Now that the fear is gone, this level of non-payment reflects how people really feel on the issue.
“These figures mean that the writing is on the wall for Irish Water, water charges and the government. They will find it hugely difficult to revive the charge.”
Mr Barry also called for the charges, as well as the commission on water, to be scrapped.
“The charges should be scrapped and Irish Water should be abolished. People who have paid should be refunded and all arrears wrote off for those who didn’t pay.
“The Government should now accept defeat on the water charges. They should scrap the sham commission which they have set up and instead let the Dáil decide on the future of water charges.”
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