It was reported by Niall O'Connor in the Irish Independent on March 18 that 'Over half a million households refusing to pay their water bills face having the charges deducted from their salaries or social welfare payments under a plan being devised by Fianna Fáil.'
The Irish Independent did not name a source other than 'a senior party source'. The article went one
Non-payers will be pursued by a new, slimmed-down authority which the party says will be set up to replace Irish Water, the Irish Independent understands.
The confirmation that Fianna Fáil, like Fine Gael, intends to pursue those boycotting the charges removes another stumbling block to the two parties striking a coalition deal.
Having been accused of several flip-flops on the issue of water charges to date, Fianna Fáil is now adamant that bills issued must be honoured.
"You can't have one half of the country paying, and the other half refusing. We will address the issue of non-payment before we move to suspend charges," a senior party source told the Irish Independent.
Although consideration has been given to the introduction of tax credits for households who have already paid their bills, Fianna Fáil strategists now say dodgers will be pursued through the form of attachment orders.
This will happen under legislation introduced by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last year, which allows State bodies like Irish Water to pursue debtors for bills of up to €5,000.
Paul Murphy TD Anti-Austerity Alliance responds March 18 2016
Fianna Fail’s threats to deduct water charges is‘unworkable’ – legislation for deductions is only effective when debt reaches €500, however, if bills are scrapped debt will never reach €500.
Massive increases in non-payment will make ‘empty threats’ of FF plan.
Pursuing non-payers would mean hundreds of thousands of court cases.
The Anti-Austerity Alliance has responded to a reported plan by Fianna Fail to force payment of the water charges saying it is an ‘empty threat’ as non-payment has sky-rocketed and would be ‘unworkable’ because the legislation which they propose to use is only effective once a debt reaches €500.
Mick Barry TD said “Fianna Fail’s plan to try pursue people for payment of the water charges continues their back-tracking on their election promises and would be impossible for them to implement. The previous government’s threats and plans to deduct payment from non-payers was unworkable, the Fianna Fail plan is even more unworkable.
“Legally the legislation [Civil Debt Procedures Bill] which would be used to get attachment orders for deductions can only be used when the debt owed reaches €500, however, under Fianna Fail’s plan if they scrapped Irish Water and stopped issuing bills, people’s debt would never reach €500. So their whole plan is legally unworkable, before they even attempt to try to bring hundreds of thousands of people to court.”
Paul Murphy TD said “Since the General Election, non-payment of the water charges which stood at 50% has sky-rocketed. This makes any plan to pursue non-payers empty threats. These threats are part of a rear-guard action by them to try to hold back the flood of people cancelling direct debits and joining the boycott. We would encourage people to join the boycott, this will increases the pressure massively on all parties, but particularly Fianna Fail, while they are negotiating to form a government to not only scrap the charges but to refund people who have paid the charge."
Ruth Coppinger TD said “The election sent a clear message to all the political parties that people reject water charges. They should be abolished immediately, and people should be refunded. No government will be able to break the water charges boycott now.
“People need to increase the pressure on Fianna Fail to force them to commit to abolish Irish Water and stop these threats to non-payers. The plan to abolish Irish Water and have a new body chase up non-payment will be impossible to work out. We should now increase the pressure with the boycott and force the abolition of the charges and to scarp the bills.”
Update today March 18 - Conflicting statements
Fianna Fáil’s Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen says no decisions have been made on the issue of unpaid water bills.
The Irish Independent reports today that the party will pursue those who fail to pay their water bills if in Government and that more than half a million householders face having payments deducted from their salaries or social welfare by a new slimmed down authority replacing Irish Water.
Offaly Deputy Cowen, who is part of the Fianna Fáil negotiation team meeting with other parties and independents, had told Midlands 103 that no discussions have taken place on unpaid bills.
He also says their position on charges is unchanged from the election manifesto which proposes abolishing water charges and Irish Water.