Unemployed man in electricity cut-off protest
An unemployed man chained himself to railings at ESB headquarters today in protest at threats to cut off his electricity as his daughter collected her Leaving Certificate results.
Seamus Sherlock travelled from rural Limerick to central Dublin over the ESB management's refusal to accept his genuine attempts to pay €50 a week off outstanding bills.
The separated father-of-five had been left a €2,261 bill when he took over the household in June.
He borrowed more than €1,100 from family and friends to pay off half the debt in a lump sum and then offered to use €50 a week from his €196 social welfare to cover the rest of the bill.
The ESB initially refused to accept his payment plan and threatened to cut him off on Monday - charging Mr Sherlock another €97 for the warning.
"They told me they would take the rest in instalments but they wanted €150 every week. I get €196 every week," he said.
Mr Sherlock, from Newcastle-West, said the ESB has given him a three-week breathing space before finalising a new payment scheme.
"I just want the people of Ireland to know what is going on with ESB," he said after unlocking chains and meeting with ESB management.
He continued: "I went in to ask them to stop disconnecting people who are genuinely trying to pay bills."
Mr Sherlock, who shares custody of his children, said he had every confidence in his daughter Bernadette's exam successes.
"I agreed to give her the day. She told me to go ahead and do what you have to do for Ireland. I'm anxious but I'm not worried, she's a bright girl," he said.
The ESB confirmed earlier this week it cuts off 900 homes a month. Bord Gais said it cuts off gas supplies to 230 homes a month and 120 from its electricity service.
Aengus O Snodaigh, Sinn Fein spokesman on social protection, who supported a protest by scores of people at the ESB offices, said the semi-state body was behaving outrageously.
"It is a scandal that a state-owned company such as the ESB is cutting more than 900 struggling families off every month at a time when unemployment is rife and prices are rising.
"The Government needs to step in and ensure nobody else is cut off as a result of inability to pay. This mess is a direct consequence of Government cutbacks."
The ESB later said disconnection only occurs when all other avenues have been exhausted, and 99.9% of those disconnected are reconnected within 24 hours.
It also said in the relatively few cases of disconnection, ESB Customer Supply, and all electricity suppliers, incur a fixed charge associated with visits to the customer's residence.