PEOPLE on the island of Inis Meáin had their water switched off for almost a full day after the escalation of a pay row which has already frozen flights to and from the island.
The water on the second largest of the three Aran Islands was switched off yesterday morning, leaving businesses and guesthouses with no running water supply until last night and little notice so they could stock up on bottled water.
Airline Aer Arann had already been forced to pull its flight service to and from Inis Meáin last Friday after people employed to work at the airport withdrew their services after they had not been paid by the local Co-op, Comharchumann Inis Meáin Teo.
The same situation arose at the island’s desalination plant, meaning workers withdrew their services, with the resultant cutting off of the water supply.
The Co-op on the island has failed over the last two annual general meetings to restructure the board of management. It is understood this has led to it effectively ceasing to operate as a legal entity, meaning it cannot receive an administration grant from Údarás na Gaeltachta, some of which is used to pay for the maintenance of the water scheme.
Business people on the island, which has a population of 170 but which swells during the summer, were meeting to try and arrive at a short-term solution to the problem, while negotiations were also being conducted between the Co-op and Údarás na Gaeltachta to get the water system going.
However, it is understood that the Co-op has fallen into debt in recent times, meaning longer term negotiation may be required to solve the problem.
SIPTU’s Michael Kilcoyne said the situation is extremely serious and the Department of the Gaeltacht must take steps to resolve it.
“The onus is now on Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Minister Pat Carey to intervene in this dispute in order to keep the island running again. People aren’t going to work if they are not being paid.
“Our people want to work but they won’t without being paid. There is nobody to supervise them of give them directions. From a health and safety point of view that is a concern. If there is nobody to supervise them, who will carry the can?”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved