Analysis: Politicians to blame for this mess
Published 04/05/2016 | 02:30
The fact that Irish Water is continuing to send bills to households at a time when charges are supposed to be suspended is a nonsense.
But the blame does not lie with the utility. The law says that if a household draws water from the public mains, or discharges wastewater into a public sewer, they must pay. Irish Water's hands are tied. In fact, the law also says that not only must the utility send a bill, you must pay it.
In the absence of legislative change, it's business as usual. But there is no doubt that payment rates, which currently stand at 61pc, will plummet. After all, why would anyone pay after Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil made it abundantly clear that they plan to suspend the charge for at least nine months?
And, given that there has to date been no action against non-payers, compliant customers might be forgiven for thinking Irish Water is giving them the two fingers when the latest bill lands on the mat.
The message has also been sent that the Dáil will ultimately decide if the charges will be re-introduced. Given the make-up of the house, there are two chances of this happening - slim and none.
Sending these bills comes at a cost of at least €800,000. That's a lot of money which could be used to fund upgrades, including installing alarms in smaller plants to ensure that water is being treated to the required standard, protecting drinking water sources, or helping to reduce leakage. And, lest we forget, raw sewage continues to flow into the sea, so every cent does count.
But because Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have so far failed to cobble together a government, the fiasco that is water continues and bills continue to be sent out.
Money is being wasted because the parties haven't directly told people there is no legal requirement to pay their bills by enacting the necessary legislation.
For this ridiculous and shambolic state of affairs, don't blame Irish Water. The public's ire should be directed at the politicians who have allowed this to happen.