Nobody will be jailed for dodging water bills
The Government is to substantially remove the threat of jail over those who refuse to pay their water charges, the Irish Independent has confirmed.
Householders who do not pay their bills will instead have attachment orders placed on their wages or social welfare payments under the proposals, which are to be discussed at Cabinet today.
The joint proposals between the Department of the Environment and the Department of Justice emphasise the difference between those who "can't pay" and those who "won't pay".
Those who can't pay will be invited to enter into "payment plans" with Irish Water and will be given the option to pay their bills monthly or bi-monthly.
However, those who won't pay face having the bills deducted from their incomes.
"We can't sustain a situation whereby one person pays their bills but their neighbours get away with it," said a Government strategist.
While sources say the involvement of the courts cannot be ruled out down the line, this approach will only apply to the "absolute minority of cases".
Menawhile, Fianna Fail today labelled the Government’s latest water proposals as a “stunt”.
“I think it is a very cynical move out of the Government because really they have been exposed. They are trying to broaden out the whole issue to the collection of other monies which are due to the State and they are lumping in in the water as part of it,” said the party’s Justice spokesperson Niall Collins.
“You can’t have a situation, because of inability to pay, that the State is then going to go after their very meagre social welfare payment to effectively shore up Irish Water. So it’s a stunt out of the Government,” he added.
But while Sinn Fein has called on householders not to pay their bills, Mr Collins said his party will not encourage people to break the law.
“We’ve been very clear. If something is the law of the land, we’re not going to advocate people breaking the law of the land,” Mr Collins said.
The Limerick TD said he believes the Government is trying to spread the political damage by rolling out the penalties in tandem with wider debt collection measures.