Phil In The Gaps


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[A section of a letter from the Office of the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to Mick Murphy, a Green Party candidate for Cork South West]

You may recall a post from last  about how Mick Murphy, a Green Party candidate for Cork South West, lodged a complaint with the European Commission about the establishment of Irish Water. It has now been sent to the European Parliament.

Further to this, it’s emerged Mr Murphy has made previous complaints about Irish Water – this time to the Office of the Ombudsman.

On January 31, 2014, Mr Murphy made joint and separate complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman against the Environment Minister Phil Hogan, his department and against Irish Water.

He lodged his complaints under five headings:

1. The transfer of strategic infrastructure that was heavily funded by EU funding to a monopoly in breach of EU funding and competition law directives that prevent such funding being used for the ‘establishment of or support of a monopoly’.

2.  Loss to Mr Murphy under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act.

3.  Loss to Mr Murphy under contract law.

4.  Loss to Mr Murphy over having to pay a premium for water to pay for the unnecessary/ excess staff that were transferred from local authorities.

5.  Social justice grounds in that there was no provision in the establishment of Irish Water by the Government for the elderly poor who would be unable to pay the water charges.

The Ombudsman wrote to Mr Murphy on February 18 telling him that, before the Office of the Ombudsman could deal with his complaint, it would be necessary for Mr Murphy to first send his complaints to Minister Hogan and Irish Water.

Mr Murphy subsequently made formal complaints to the minister and Irish Water.

Irish Water responded to Mr Murphy on March 14 but Mr Murphy was unhappy with the answers and he complained to the Ombudsman about Irish Water again on March 25.

The Ombudsman replied to Mr Murphy’s complaint on April 7, saying Irish Water had been placed outside the remit of the Ombudsman and therefore could not be investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman.

On March 25, Mr Murphy received a reply from Minister Hogan in relation to his complaint to the Ombudsman.

Mr Murphy says: “In this reply the only issue I raised which was dealt with satisfactorily was the ‘social justice’ issue in that the minister had accepted that: ‘Restriction of supply will only be implemented where all other efforts to secure payment have failed and it is clear that there are no affordability issues’.”

Mr Murphy adds: “Unfortunately this is the only public record of the Minister or his agents conceding such a fact, and public announcements since, and before, this letter seem to revert to the elderly, poor and infirm facing the prospect of a reduction of water pressure that would be barely enough to sustain life.”

On April 9, Mr Murphy wrote to the Ombudsman complaining about the actions of Minister Hogan and on April 17, the Ombudsman replied saying: ‘As Irish Water is not within the remit of the Ombudsman, the functions of the Minister of Environment are also considered to be outside the remit of the Ombudsman.’

Mr Murphy wrote again to the Ombudsman, pointing out that Section 5 (3) of the Ombudsman’s Act allows a Government minister to prevent an investigation of his or her office, or they can demand for an investigation to stop once they do so in writing, and set out in writing the full reasons for the request.

Mr Murphy has since asked the Office of the Ombudsman if Minister Hogan sought to block an investigation into his office.

Previously: Once More Unto The Breach

Thicker Than Uisce

(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)

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