herald

Monday 26 September 2016

Family's fury as gran who passed away six years ago gets bill from Irish Water

Bills

Mary O'Brien died in January 2009 but has received a bill for water from Irish Water. Mary's daughter Angela Murtagh (pictured) says her mother would have been 96 if she was alive and is pictured with her mothers bill
Mary O'Brien died in January 2009 but has received a bill for water from Irish Water. Mary's daughter Angela Murtagh (pictured) says her mother would have been 96 if she was alive and is pictured with her mothers bill

A GRANDMOTHER who died six years ago has received a bill from Irish Water.

If Mary Jane O'Brien was still alive, she would be 96 years old and her family want to know where Irish Water got her details from.

"My mum lived with us in a granny flat at the side of our house. She passed away in 2009. Irish Water sent her a registration pack and we sent it back. Where is this company getting her name and her information?," her daughter Angela Murtagh told the Herald.

Following her death in January 2009, Mary Jane O'Brien was taken off the voters' register. When the bill arrived, Angela said she "was very annoyed and upset about it".

"The registration pack [from Irish Water] did arrive first and then me and my husband Declan got a pack too. This means we got two packs and two water bills for this address.

"When mum was living here with us, she was living in a granny flat that we built onto the side of the house. It is all one place - not a separate dwelling."

Irish Water installed just one meter for the house, including the granny flat, in Balreask village in Navan, Co Meath.

"The fact that she got the bill, well we can't understand how or why.

"We'd like to ask Irish Water why did she get the bill and what are they doing with her name?"

She said her mum would not have paid the bill if she was alive.

"There would not be a hope. This bill will not be paid," Angela said.

Last night, an Irish Water spokesperson said: "Where registration packs or bills have issued to people who are deceased, we sincerely regret any distress caused."

Irish Water said their billing database has come from the local property tax database, An Post and local authorities and is fully compliant with data protection legislation.

In a statement, Irish Water said:

“No database has ever existed of all households in Ireland connected to the public water supply and wastewater treatment networks. In order to build this database for the first time, Irish Water initiated an extensive customer validation campaign in 2014 when every household in the country was invited to register their details with us, and, where households were not customers, to tell us that so that they would not be billed.

"As part of building and refining our database, we have also relied on information from a number of sources including the Local Property Tax Database, information from An Post and names and addresses of tenants provided by landlords including local authorities.  All of this information has been provided in full compliance with data protection legislation.

"Where registration packs or bills have issued to people who are deceased we sincerely regret any distress caused to family members.

Angela said she has not registered with Irish Water and doesn't intend to.

"We have paid for water twice and three times over and I don't see why we should have to pay for it again."

Declan said: "We are not looney left. We voted for Fine Gael last time but we won't be voting for them again."

Another family member, Michael Murtagh, said he was amazed to find that his daughter who emigrated has got a bill from Irish Water.

Michael, who is a nephew of Declan and Angela, said: "Michelle (25) has been living for nearly the last two years in Calgary in Canada."

Michelle is still getting polling cards at her dad's home in Navan despite the fact that she now lives in Canada.

He believes the operation of the billing system is "by people who haven't got a clue what they are doing".

"I couldn't believe it," Mr Murtagh said. He is now worried that the unpaid bill will work against his daughter if she ever wants a mortgage.

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