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Water boss's grovelling apology to Taoiseach

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John Tierney

John Tierney

John Tierney

John Tierney

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John Tierney

IRISH Water chief John Tierney has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to personally apologise for the failures at the hated utility.

In the grovelling letter, Mr Tierney apologises twice and acknowledges that the company “has fallen well below the standards of service that you expect”.

It was the only official correspondence between the two men’s offices up to the beginning of last month.

Mr Tierney wrote to Mr Kenny the day after he apologised to the public for the mistakes made by Irish Water.

The letter was released to the Herald under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) ahead of Wednesday’s protest march in Dublin.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in opposition to water charges, even after the Government last month slashed the sums that householders will pay.

Mr Tierney’s letter, beginning “Dear An Taoiseach”, was sent on November 4, three days after more than 100,000 people took to the streets to voice their anger at the charge and how Irish Water had been established.

“At the outset I would like to apologise to you for the shortcomings in relation to the level of service Irish Water has provided to you,” he wrote.

“I acknowledge that this has fallen well below the standards of service that you expect, or that we have set ourselves.

“This is the first stage in addressing this and I am committed to continually improving our communications with you.”

He added that he recognised that there had been “significant difficulties in how we communicate with our customers – your constituents”.

“I would like to apologise again for the inconvenience,” he continues, “and assure you that we are committed to improving the level of service for all our customers and we will be closely monitoring our performance in this regard.”

controversies

Mr Tierney said measures would be taken to make it easier for members of the Oireachtas to communicate with Irish Water, including setting up a dedicated phone line for TDs and senators.

An Irish Water spokeswoman said last night that the letter was among those sent to Oireachtas members as part of a fortnightly newsletter that is being send to TDs.

“All elected representatives would have received the info you are referring to including TDs and councillors,” she said.

The spokeswoman could not say last night if Mr Kenny’s letter differed from those sent to other politicians.

Among the controversies involving Mr Tierney at the semi-state were revelations that €50m was spent on consultants as the utility established itself as a new company, despite Irish Water having 4,500 employees.

There were comparisons with the situation when he was manager of Dublin City Council and €32m was spent on consultancy services for the Poolbeg Incinerator without a brick being laid.

Throughout October, Irish Water refused to reveal how many people had registered to pay the charge.

Then there were revelations of a bonus structure that had been created at the company, which included additional payments for staff who “need improvement”.

The managing director refused to take to the airways to explain himself, even as controversies rumbled on and public anger mounted.

In late October, Mr Tierney was forced to deny he had been asked to resign after he presided over farcical goings-on at Irish Water.

Speaking after a two-hour meeting with Environment Minister Alan Kelly, he said he was not about to leave his post, despite the repeated controversies.

Last month, when the Government announced changes to Irish Water in an attempt to quell public anger, it announced the creation of Ervia to oversee Irish Water and parent company Bord Gais.

Bord Gais chief Michael McNicholas was announced as the new company’s chief, effectively diminishing Mr Tierney’s position.

Changes to the charging regime were announced, with single-person households paying €60 and homes with two adults paying €160 when the €100 water conservation grant is taken into account.

The Government hopes the lower fees, capped until the end of 2018, will calm public anger.


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