‘Nothing Short Of Extortion’


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Bernard and Rosemary Walsh, founders of Walsh Whiskey Distillery

This morning KLCR 96FM reported that Walsh Whiskey Distillery in Royal Oak, Co. Carlow – which is set to open in January 2016 – has received a bill for €500,000 from Irish Water, out of the blue.

Renua candidate for the by-election in Carlow-Kilkenny on May 22, Patrick McKee, and founder of Walsh Whiskey Bernard Walsh spoke to John Masterson, of KLCR 96FM about the matter this morning.

This is what was said:

Cllr Patrick McKee: “Essentially, what we have here, is an indigenous business based in Carlow, that’s undertaken a multi-million investment in Carlow, and it’s hoping to create 55 permanent jobs and 70 construction jobs. The company is in the middle of building the first whiskey distillery in the south east in 200 years at the Royal Oak, near Bagnelstown and is aiming to commence in January next year. Thankfully the demand doesn’t affect the viability of the organisation..”

John Masterson: “So the business is going ahead?”

McKee: “Absolutely. But it does highlight the significant difficulties companies, who want to create employment, are facing when dealing with semi State structures, including Irish Water. I mean to demand half a million euros from a new company, essentially, is piggy-backing on a private enterprise to seek investment for public infrastructure. It’s totally unacceptable. I mean the company had been given the licence by Carlow County Council. When Irish Water took over, they’re simply trying to renege on that and it’s totally unacceptable.”

Masterson: “So the company had gone through all the normal hoops, they had filled out the forms, they had sought their permission before they decided to go ahead with this important investment?”

McKee: “Absolutely. In 2013, Walsh’s Whiskey was granted a licence, by Carlow County Council, as I said, to allow the distillery to put their by-product, their by-product to be sent to the [wastewater] processing plant in Bagnelstown, once distilling commenced, as I said, in January 2016. Now as we now, authority for such matters has transferred to Irish Water and Irish Water is now, is failing to honour that licence. And it’s also retrospectively changing the rules and demanding Irish whiskey, as I said a young company, a new company – with huge potential – to develop an industry in this constituency in Carlow, and in Kilkenny and the wider region, to pay half a million euro, to upgrade the processing plant in Bagnelstown and I’m going to say this very clearly: it’s nothing short of extortion and I’m calling on the Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly to reign in Irish Water who are counter demanding the decision by Carlow County Council. It’s scandalous, it highlights how out of touch Irish Water is…”


Masterson: “That must have come as something of a shock to you? How did it happen to you that you were told that you had to essentially come up with half a million euros that you hadn’t planned for?”

Bernard Walsh: “Yes, it came left of field because we got our licence in 2013 and got a call this year to go in and meet them. So it was totally left field. Maybe just to give you a bit of background. Patrick talked about the by-product. Most, apart from the whiskey that we produce, the by-product from the distillery is sent, drained pot ale and that goes back into agriculture as animal feed. But there are small waste drains such as wastewater from cleaning out our pots and the system there, etc. And that goes through to, as wastewater to be treated in the Bagnelstown plant. And we knew in 2013 that there was no point in looking at Carlow and Bagnelstown if the plant couldn’t facilitate us. We had other options. So we applied, as anybody would apply, in Carlow and we got our licence. So that, effectively, meant we could proceed with the site in Royal Oak, subject to planning permission which we duly got. So, you know, we did everything by the book. And then, I suppose, to find out now, you know we’re really only months away from completing construction that we’ve actually got to pay this extra wedge of money – all because Irish Water are saying the plant is now no longer able to take extra wastewater.”

Masterson: “Ok, but they would have known that at the time. On top of that you that, you have to pay an annual fee for the treatment of your by-product water, is that right?”

Walsh: “Exactly, you know, it’s only fair that we, and all users of the treatment plant, pay for the waste treatment and we’ll be paying daily, hourly, you know, weekly, monthly charges for that and that’s what makes the plant viable.”

Masterson: “But you’re happy with that, are you Bernard? It’s this 500 [thousand euros] that’s come out of, as you said, left field that you’re unhappy with?”

Walsh: “Listen, we’re an existing licence user like any of the other licence users in the greater Bagnelstown area and if, and of course we have to pay for the use of the plant and we do and that’s normal business but to pay for infrastructure we know maybe the plant needs to be upgraded now, that’s what we’re hearing from Irish Water but we shouldn’t be penalised. We’re an existing customer and if they want to penalise customers then allocate it clearly across all customers across the region.”

Listen to interview back here (in Part One)

Pic: Licensing World

H/T: Eimear Ní Bhraonáin

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36 thoughts on “‘Nothing Short Of Extortion’

  1. Paolo

    Sounds like the council screwed up and issued a license to the company when the waste water facilities are unable to cope. This is why the responsibility for water should not be in the hands of the councils.

    1. ahjayzis

      Whether that’s the case or not, if the plant requires updating it’s completely unreasonable to expect one company that hasn’t even established itself in the area to foot the bill. It makes no sense.

    2. Teaman

      Why would any one invest in Ireland if this happens. Investors can’t get their legs chopped off at the finish line. Some one needs to get a few (majority) of common sense business people on the board of Irish water. Get those anti business pin heads off the board.

  2. scottser

    careful now, ye may open the doors of the plant one day to find a clatter of empty barrels and denis o’brien asleep in the corner.

      1. scottser

        my milkshake brings all the fat b@stard, tax avoiders to the yard
        fat b@stard, tax avoiders to the yard
        fat b@stard, tax avoiders to the yard

  3. Mysterymeat

    So in summary, the council said go ahead, but now Irish Water want them to fund the capital cost of upgrading a treatment plant that will be used by the whole community in the area?
    I thought the whole idea of a business, and it was made clear this would be the case with IW, was that they would be borrowing against ‘the markets’ to fund the upgrade of infrastructure? This seems to be a change of approach.
    anybody else had this happen? I know with Eircom or ESB they expect you to pay to put in poles, transformers, etc if required for your new connection. Didn’t know it would be the case for IW.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      They, IW, have a contract they inherited and must honour, but they are now trying to rewrite the contract to suit themselves…. is that it?

      Tell ’em to fupp off, if it is.

    2. ahjayzis

      I imagine you have to pay for them to connect your out-of-town factory to the mains, as with electricity and telephony – but to my knowledge Eircom don’t expect new customers to entirely fund extending the local telephone exchange?

  4. 评论员

    Wouldn’t say he’s sort of a few bob & it won’t be cornflakes for din dins any time soon.

    Irish water….”the plant needs to be upgraded now” = “give the monies now, Denis ‘the menace’ O’Brien has not being getting his full 8 hours because of rascals like you.”

    In any case, Irish water…what a shower a f’n c….!

          1. The Old Boy

            Make a note of that word ‘gobbledegook’. I like it. I want to use it more often in conversation.

  5. jeremy kyle

    “Stop your complaining about things and just shut up.”


    1. Zarathustra

      Yep, it’s where they brew O’ Hara’s ales & stouts, but they’re getting in to whiskey now as well. Both distilleries are located in the Royal Oak area, but the new one, Walsh’s, as mentioned in this article, is being built on a beautiful site of an old estate with acres of garden around it.

  6. dhaughton99

    I always wondered how much of a bill Intel in Leixlip gets because of the huge amount of water they use.

    1. Shane

      My thoughts exactly 500000 is far too concise a figure, unless of course one is pulling it out of ones ass!

    2. Michael

      Pick a number between 1 and a million – add on the bonus and the pension scheme – divide by 2 and multiply by 1.5 and there is your figure.

  7. Shane

    Whole thing is a farce and an unending one at that, the arrogance of it all is enough to make you want to puke

  8. Rico

    C’mon guys, forget the troubles and vote SF to end this – FG and FF come from bloody histories too.

Comments are closed.

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