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Big Phil bids farewell as country prepares for water protests

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European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan

European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan

REUTERS

European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan

Former Environment Minister Phil Hogan returned home for one last bash with his ex-colleagues on the eve of the country's biggest protest march against Irish Water.

The TD, who stood over the establishment of the embattled semi-state, flew home for a casual retirement party in Smyth's pub on Haddington Road.

It was smiles all round at Mr Hogan's do - on the night before tens of thousands of protesters are expected on the streets to protest against the introduction of water charges.

The public's unhappiness with the implementation of water charges reaches unprecedented levels.

More than 100,000 people are expected to take to the streets in separate water protests in Dublin today.

In total, more than 90 protests have been organised across the country for today in most counties, with the biggest expected in the capital.

Earlier, Mr Hogan warned that consumers may end up paying more income tax, if they do not pay water charges.

"Water is not free," he said. "It costs €1bn a year to supply water to all of the people of this country so we either pay more on income tax to get the systems we have in place...or we pay as we use.

"It's never easy, people right across the European Union are paying as you use at the moment."

Irish Water have confirmed that less than 750,000 households have signed up to Irish Water at the original deadline.

Consumers were required to register their details, including their PPS number, with the semi-state before October 31. This deadline has now been extended until November 30.

Yesterday, a representative for Irish Water said that they had to deal with a number of queries and that the company was under- resourced to deal with them.

DEADLINe

"As you can imagine, there is a lot going on," she added.

When asked if they were unhappy with the number of people who had registered for water charges, the spokeswoman refused to comment.

The new utility company was forced to extend the deadline due to the low numbers registering.

This also means that the company had to move the first water bills being sent out from the beginning of next year to the end January 2015.

More than two million households were supposed to have returned their forms before yesterday's deadline.

Earlier in the day, Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton insisted that water charges will be modest and capped and that the Government is examining a "fair price".

Ms Burton said that a flat rate charge will be available for a period of time, adding that it is impossible to have a metered system unless almost all households have a meter.

The Tanaiste acknowledged the time frame for the implementation of water charges was ambitious.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan also said decisions on just how much people will end up paying for water will be announced in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Noonan said the Economic Management Council earlier this week focused on the issues of certainty about what charges people would face in the future.

hnews@herald.ie


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