Donna Hartnett, originally from Dublin but living in Cobh in Co Cork, had written of how her financial difficulties were putting the squeeze on family life and affecting the lives of her children.
Yesterday, the former child and family development worker accused ministers and the Taoiseach of “throwing out jibes” about the water charges, claiming it was a step too far for families struggling to balance finances and home life.
Speaking to TV3, she said: “I feel their response to the march [against water charges], particulalrly the most recent one, is inadequate. The people have already said ‘we’re already paying for water, we’re not paying again’, they have responded by saying, ‘oh, you need clarity’. We don’t need clarity, we need you to speak up and acknowledge what we have just said and communicate with us about it.”
She said that people were “hurting” though aware they had to “dig in” to overcome economic difficulties, but that the water charges were a tax too far.
“I felt so frustrated, I felt like I didn’t have a choice in my own life,” she said of the letter. “I am a person who wants to work, I do want to pay my taxes, I want to be a good citizen, but I think the system as it stands makes that completely impossible.”
Having now left her job, she said the days when she and her husband were working full-time had not made her two children happy, as they spent most of the day in childcare, while economically the family was worse off: “We were going into our savings to cover childcare”.
Independent TD Joan Collins raised Ms Harnett’s situation in the Dáil as she accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of having no understanding of the financial pressure families are under.
“The woman in Cork said: ‘No one will ever stand over my grave and say, ‘Wasn’t she great at paying her water taxes’ but it will be at the exact moment that my children will evaluate the quality and the years I gave them.’ Is the Taoiseach standing over this policy? Will he abolish the water tax? It is causing so much grief, stress and concern for every single family in the country and this family is an example of what they are all going through,” she said.
Mr Kenny said that he “admired” the way Ms Hartnett had gone public with her concerns but insisted budget measures would benefit families.
“Deputy Collins referred to the water charges when she spoke about the letter from the young mother in Cork,” he said.
“As I pointed out to the Deputy, in this most recent budget, in the next budget and in the one after that — if the people so wish — multiples of the water contributions will be given back to families in their income tax reduction and in increased child benefit, as has happened in this case.”