herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

We won't be 'bullied' into water charges claims Paul Murphy

TD Paul Murphy
TD Paul Murphy

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy has said that Irish people will not be "bullied" into water charges after it was revealed that unpaid bills will be automatically deducted from salaries and pensions.

The Government is planning to introduce tough new rules which will allow charges to be taken from social welfare payments or any other form of income.

The measures will be set out in legislation going to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

The news comes after a weekend protest against water charges in Dublin was attended by tens of thousands of people.

However, it is understood that protections will be in place for those on very low incomes to ensure that payments can't be withdrawn when they would cause undue financial hardship.

The first stage of the enforcement regime will involve Irish Water writing to homeowners asking them to pay their bills or enter into payment plans to pay the money over time.

If the bill is left unpaid for 12 months and there is no engagement with the utility, a €30 fine will be applied to single-adult households and €60 for a house with two or more adult occupants. These fines will be applied for every year of non-payment.

If the householder continues to refuse to engage with Irish Water, they can be taken to court. Judges will be given powers to register the charge against the property, meaning it cannot be sold unless the debt is paid.

Irish Water previously said that it does not expect to bring people to court for non-payment.

This morning Mr Murphy said recouping the money would entail Irish Water going to court and obtaining an attachment order to deduct the payments from people's wages or welfare payments.

Mr Murphy said on RTE's Morning Ireland that this would involve a huge number of cases and would not be practical, even if a fast-tracked court process is introduced.

He also said it would not affect the continuing water protests or break the boycott of charges.

justified

Mr Murphy said people were justified in deciding not to pay a tax - although it was the law - if they believed it was unjust or regressive.

When it was put to him that the majority of TDs supported water charges and were elected with that mandate, he said: "It's the Government that supposedly has the mandate, and the Labour Party was elected on a false promise of scrapping the water charges."

Irish Water says that just under one million people - two-thirds of its customer base - have registered for the charges.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said those in financial difficulty will not be hit with the new measures, which were "imminent".

"I can assure you from the Government's point of view that legislation and regulations will be brought in to ensure that everyone will be treated the same and there will be enforcement," he said.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance is due to put down a motion in the Dail tonight calling for the immediate abolition of the charges.

Mr Murphy said it will be the last chance for the Government to listen to the people and to scrap the water charges.

hnews@herald.ie

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