Wave of protests against water charges

A mass wave of water protests will be staged across the country this weekend as public anger over the controversial charges continues.

In a bid to address concerns, the Government is finalising options to alleviate charges for households. These include a capped family payment, easy-pay options, and an extended period where all households pay flat rates.

Tens of thousands of protesters will take to the streets on Saturday at more than 50 rallies in cities, towns, and villages in what organisers hope will be the biggest mass mobilisation against the levy.

Campaign spokesman David Gibney said the Right2Water team want this Saturday to be about empowering local communities to fight for the revocation of domestic water charges. “We are not looking for tax credits, we are not looking for changes to allowances or tinkering around with the system, but for the abolition of water charges,” he said.

The Government will this week consider a menu of options to address concerns.

A capped family payment is one of these. Such a measure would see families with a number of dependent adult children at home paying a maximum rate.

“In the current economic climate, more adult children live at home and of course use more water. And you will have a lot more parents banging on a bathroom door,” said a Government figure.

The Government’s four-member Economic Management Council will discuss options tomorrow.

The Cabinet may touch on the water charge options today at their weekly meeting. However, the main options will not be addressed until tomorrow. A final decision is not expected this week.

Ministers will also look at extending the period where households pay an assessed payment beyond next summer, until a later time when more, if not most, meters are installed. Irish Water says 80% of meters will be installed by the end of 2016.

Easy-payment options will also be considered, including deducting amounts directly from state payments through post offices.

A key obstacle in deciding further options for households will be staying within EU limits under which the State is allowed to subsidise the company. A source said this may be overcome by Irish Water postponing investment of hundreds of millions of euro in services next year so funds instead help ease payments.

Meanwhile, the head of the body representing county and city councillors said the board of Irish Water has lost the respect of the public, and the establishment of the company has been “an unmitigated disaster”.

Padraig McNally, president of the Association of Irish Local Government, spoke as local authorities debate motions calling for the utility to be scrapped.

Fine Gael’s Mr McNally said existing councils were better equipped to introduce water charges. “The board has a lack of experience and has made too many mistakes,” he said.

Cork County Council is also to write to the Department of the Environment telling it to “take back control of Irish Water” after councillors yesterday agreed a motion and described it as “a fiasco”.

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