Household water bills nearly halved to 18.3 million euro
The amount people have paid for water bills has almost halved.
Irish Water said households paid 18.3 million euro for drinking supplies and waste water treatment during January to March as new bills were sent out in April and May when the Government announced plans to suspend charges for nine months.
The figure is down from 33.4m euro for the previous three months before the election was called.
Irish Water said 989,000 customers, 65%, paid some or all of their domestic charges in the first five billing cycles and 14,000 customers paid something for the first time during the billing cycle in April and May.
“Government has confirmed that any shortfall in funding from domestic charges during their suspension will be provided to Irish Water by the Exchequer,” Irish Water said.
“This will allow Irish Water to continue to deliver on its business plan.”
The company said customers remain liable for any bills racked up prior to the suspension of charges.
Water charges are being reviewed in a commission set up by the Government.
Former chairman of the Labour Court Kevin Duffy has taken on the chairman’s role after Joe O’Toole was forced to resign for criticising left-wing politicians and saying he supported water charges and the polluter pays principle.
Sinn Fein’s Eoin O Broin said the collapse in bill payments shows charges are no longer viable.
“These massive slumps in payment rates show clearly that water charges have no future,” he said.
“With the Government and Fianna Fail still only advocating for a temporary suspension of the charges, it appears they are not listening to the people.”
Mr O Broin called for charging to be abolished completely.
“Everything else is only kicking the can down the road,” he said.
“Water charges will remain the most contentious of political issues until this government and Fianna Fail accept that last February the majority of people voted to scrap water charges and abolish Irish Water.”
The Anti-Austerity Alliance, which has been at the forefront of promoting the boycott of charges, said it would be hugely difficult to revive billing in nine months.
Mick Barry TD said: “Over the last 18 months we have said that there were many people who only paid because they felt bullied or intimidated into it by the Government and Irish Water’s threats. Now that the fear is gone, this level of non-payment reflects how people really feel on the issue.
“These figures mean that the writing is on the wall for Irish Water, water charges and the Government. They will find it hugely difficult to revive the charge.”
Mr Barry called for people to be refunded any bills they had paid.