The controversial “compliance” measures, introduced by the Coalition to encourage people to pay up, will now be passed to the president to be signed into law.
The Civil Debt Bill passed through the Upper House yesterday and, despite objections from opposition senators, was not subject to amendments.
The Department of Justice legislation will allow Irish Water bring people to court for unpaid bills and deduct amounts from their wages, or from their social welfare payments.
The bill also removes the threat of jail for most cases where bills remain unpaid. The new measures will also be introduced for other companies billing customers, for utilities such as electricity or gas.
Sinn Fein senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said the measures were being passed at a time when the Irish Water project had “failed”, with figures last week revealing less than half of householders had paid.
The Coalition was now trying to give sweeping powers to Irish Water in an attempt to “pickpocket citizens”, argued the party’s rural affairs Seanad spokesman.
One section requiring debtors to provide courts with a statement of means would result in homeowners having to wash their dirty financial linen in public, he warned.
Fianna Fail senator Brian Ó Domhnaill said media in court could pick up on personal details, and debtors would not be provided with sufficient support and legal advice if required to go before a judge.
Orders of attachments on people’s earnings could affect their employment prospects, suggested the party’s agriculture spokesman.
“It could affect promotions or their advancement with an employer. Trustworthiness might become an issue...it might become the story of the office,” said Mr Ó Domhnaill.
Sen Ó Clochartaigh said the section to cut people’s dole for unpaid bills was the “most Thatcherite” of all and could blunt someone’s willingness to return to education or work.
Junior justice minister Aodhan O’Riordain rejected the opposition claims. He told the Seanad debtors would not be required to share sensitive financial details in court, such as PPS numbers but that there was also a “justice must be seen to be done in public” sentiment to this measure.