That Leo Varadkar Water Charge Apology In Full


From last night’s The Week In Politics with Sean O’Rourke.

Sean O’Rourke: “Minister the whole basis for this was fairness and ‘the user pays for water’. But it transpired yesterday, the Irish Times reports, that the executive manager for water services in Dublin City Council, which supplies and caters for nearly 40% of the country, says that up to one third of people simply won’t be able to have meters installed. So like there’s a hole in the bucket if you pardon the way I put it.”

Leo Varadkar (Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport): “Well the information that I have from the Department of the Environment is that there are roughly 1.35 million houses that are on the mains in Ireland. And they’d be the ones who would be eligible for water charges. And of those roughly 300,000 probably couldn’t be metered either because of the nature of the house or the fact they are apartments. So it’s roughly 20% or so.”

O’Rourke: “Well that man, we checked back with him and he stood by his figure of 30%.”

Varadkar: “And that may well be the figure for Dublin City for example. I doubt he has the information that the Department of the Environment would have on Fingal for example – where houses are much more modern. So there will be about 20% of older houses and apartments that won’t be able to be metered in the normal way. And what they do in other countries is they estimate the charge based on the size of the house and the number of people in it. But that’s something that will have to be worked out at a later stage. I do acknowledge that there has been confusion on this issue. I apologise for that. I know that people are struggling with bills at the moment and that the cost of living is increasing and certainly nobody in the Government wants to scare people…”

O’Rourke: “Yeah but you see if you give me..”

Varadkar: “..about charges let’s face it are not going to come into play for over two years.”

O’Rouke: “If you can be so precise about a €39 a year, that’s an unusual figure, €39 a year for 20 years of a standing charge. How come you can’t be precise about the rest of the figures?”

Varadkar: “Well actually we’re not precise about that. That’s a particular assumption, based on a particular loan model that might work, that appeared in a report.”

O’Rourke: “Oh so it mightn’t be €39 a year after all?”

Varadkar: “Well I’ll tell you what has been agreed and what was agreed by Government on Tuesday. We agreed four things essentially. The first that Irish Water would be established, and established as a subsidiary of Bord Gais. That is would be a State-owned enterprise in public ownership and that would be in the legislation. That there would be no upfront charges and no charges at all until 2014, probably late 2014. And between then and now, we’re going to do a lot of work and, as part of that process, we’re going to work out the details of charging. Things like the standing charge, things like the free allowance and the charges above that.”

O’Rourke: “In principle has the Government decided, for instance, whether a house with one person living in it will have the same free allowance as a house with two parents and four or five children.”

Varadkar: “Well no, that is the kind of thing that’s going to have to be worked out. And that’s as much about social policy as it is about economic policy. So it isn’t something that’s not just going to be left to the Regulator. That’s something that we’re going to figure out over the next two and a half years.  And bear in mind, these charges are not imminent. There’s a lot of time that we have to get this right. And we are going to get it right and we’re going to communicate it well.”

Watch here (26 mins in)

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