herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

'Everyone will pay one way or another', says Kelly as he dodges water protestors

protests

Alan Kelly TD, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government
Alan Kelly TD, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government

Environment Minister Alan Kelly will avoid facing water charge protesters at the MacGill Summer School as he is attending a European Council meeting.

Mr Kelly told the Herald he expected "a lot more people" to pay their water charges in the coming months which will push up payment figures beyond the current 46pc (under 700,000 customers) payment level.

He has pulled out of a planned appearance at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, County Donegal, next Tuesday where he was scheduled to take part in a debate on Irish Water.

The Labour party deputy leader has been the subject of a number of threats in recent times, including one from dissident republicans.

A spokesman said earlier his withdrawal "had nothing to do with security concerns".

The Right2Water Donegal spokesperson Owen Curran said his group will "in all probability" switch their protest to the appearance of Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the summer school.

The minister, who was barracked loudly by anti-water charges protesters in Ballymun yesterday, told the Herald: "I didn't take this job to be popular. I genuinely wanted to do the summer school. But there's a European Council meeting that week on the environment so I have to be there."

He said he had no problem with people protesting.

"I'm borderline immune to it as I've been around it so often. I believe in the right to protest. Some people cross the line.

"The abuse and the roaring and shouting and the vile comments around children is completely unacceptable. It's not the way people should behave.

"At least the people who threaten you face to face are actually doing it face to face. Some people are keyboard warriors and believe they can say and do anything they want. They can't," Mr Kelly said.

The Tipperary TD said he had protested in the past and was sure that he will be "protesting on many issues in the future".

He dismissed criticism by TD Paul Murphy who said the 46pc payment record for water bills was an "unmitigated disaster."

"The reality of the situation is that for three months these bills have been out so some people have only got bills in the last few weeks and the opposition are saying all these should be paid instantaneously.

"Sure that's not realistic. It takes three or four months on average for a bill to be paid. So really what we have here is a very good start.

"Seventy-three per cent of people have actually registered so by registering you are showing you are making a commitment to engaging. Some 540,000 have contacted the call centre," he said.

DEBT

"Everyone should engage because, if they don't, they will end up paying anyway because the legislation that is going through the Houses in relation to debt management will mean that everyone will end up paying one way or the other."

He claimed "the likes of Deputy Murphy" had told people "they will never have to pay. These same people said the same about household charges, property tax and bin charges but people ended up with larger bills," he said.

"They are preying on vulnerable people and it is morally wrong," he said.

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