You can’t handle transparency.
On February 24, 2012, it was reported that Bord Gáis – renamed Ervia in June 2014 – had bid for the setting up of Irish Water, almost two weeks before Denis O’Brien bought Siteserv for €45.4million in cash from the IBRC, formerly known as Anglo Irish Bank.
On April 17, 2012, the Government announced that it had agreed to establish Irish Water as an “independent State owned subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann (BGE) group”.
During the set-up phase of Irish Water, and specifically in October and November 2012, two meetings took place between former Environment Minister Phil Hogan and the chairperson of what was then Bord Gáis, Rose Hynes.
The meetings took place in Mr Hogan’s office and are noted in Mr Hogan’s official diary.
According to journalist John Burke, of RTÉ’s This Week, no minutes or notes were recorded at these two meetings.
Ms Hynes – who is a lawyer by profession and who was formerly appointed to the board of Aer Lingus in 2007 by former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes – became Irish Water’s first chairperson in July 2013. She was not appointed to Irish Water through the public procurement process.
In a statement to RTÉ’s This Week, Ervia said it was “customary practice that there were no notes taken at these meetings.”
Mr Burke said all matters would have been up for discussion during these meetings, including the installation of water meters.
Separate to those two meetings – between Mr Hogan and Ms Hynes – Mr Burke also sought minutes in relation to meetings that took place in relation to Irish Water and Bord Gáis between April and September 2012.
During that period there were 23 meetings between Bord Gais and the Department of the Environment. Out of those 23 meetings, no notes or minutes were taken for 13 of those meetings.
Those 13 meetings included two further meetings that were held between then Bord Gáis and Mr Hogan.
RTÉ’s This Week has previously reported that, on May 11, 2012, in a meeting which took place between Bord Gais and the Department of the Environment, Bord Gáis was questioning if it was the correct course of action to go ahead with water metering at that stage.
According to Mr Burke, there are no records to the four meetings that took place between Bord Gáis and the Department of the Environment in the two weeks prior to that May 11 meeting and no records relating to another meeting that took place less than a week after that May 11 meeting.
There are also no records for meetings that took place between Mr Hogan and Bord Gáis on June 28, 2012 and July 12, 2012, nor for a meeting in June 2012 between the water regulator CER, Bord Gáis and New Era.
A report by Tom Lyons, in The Sunday Business Post, says Denis O’Brien’s company Siteserv is in a legal battle with Irish Water over costs in relation to delays caused by the protests against the installation of water meters and the video monitoring of the protests.
Siteserv’s subsidiary, Sierra, is part of GMC Sierra which won a State contract to install water meters in Dublin, the Midlands, Wicklow, Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim in July 2013.
Sierra – which was chosen as the preferred bidder for a €50million, three-year contract, to provide boiler installation and servicing services to for Bord Gáis in December 2009 – was bought by Siteserv in September 2007.
Mr Lyons reports:
“The Sunday Business Post has learned that both sides have appointed legal teams to attempt to resolve the dispute, which centres around a bill of between €3million and €5million… Both sides are believed to be prepared to enter a mediation process to try to resolve the dispute, rather than suing each other. It is understood that Siteserv believes it was given verbal reassurances by Irish Water senior management that the state utility would pick up at least some of the cost of the protests. What exactly – if anything – was agreed is now disputed by the state water company… McCann FItzgerald is advising Irish Water on the matter, while a well-known Dublin firm of solicitors is acting for GMC [Sierra].”
(Photocall Ireland/Irish Water)