Irish Water party till the cows come home

Original article by Mark O'Regan, Irish Independent April 10 2017 entitled;

Irish Water staff share €3m bonus despite 'overly high costs' at utility

Image: Irish Independent - click to enlarge

Abridged article

In January, the Commission for Energy Regulation, which oversees Irish Water, said overall costs at the utility remained excessively high.

Following the suspension of water charges last year, the Government is compensating for this loss of revenue by allocating funds from central taxation to the company.

This will pay for a major capital investment programme up to 2021. Overall, the modernisation of our water system will cost billions over the next five years, according to expert analysis. Irish Water was projected to collect around €275m this year and next in domestic charges.

The scrapping of charges will mean the shortfall must be met from general taxation.

The €275m figure equates to almost €60 being taken from every man, woman and child in the country to replace the unpopular charge. The State already pays around €500m a year to Irish Water to fund day-to-day ­operations.

Meanwhile, figures also show €382,110 has been spent on engineering and environmental services, linked to controversial proposals by Irish Water to build a 170km pipeline from Shannon, Co Clare, to Dublin. There are about 500 landowners along the route, which will pass through Clare, Offaly, and Kildare, before ending in Peamount, west Dublin.

Both construction and operational costs are expected to top €1.2bn. Roughly 85pc of the pipeline runs through agricultural land. The company has insisted this scheme is necessary to service the greater Dublin population, which will rise from 1.5 million, to around 2.1 million by 2050.

Irish Water has received 524 submissions on the plan following consultations with relevant stakeholders. The utility needs funding of €8bn ­between 2017 and 2021, made up of €3.9bn to complete the €5.5bn capital investment programme, and the remainder to fund operating costs.

Full article:

Irish Water staff get €5k bonuses as crisis deepens

- All 675 workers given 'performance-related payment'

- 11 spouses of executives also have free health insurance

- FF threatens to block election of a new FG Taoiseach

Protest: March against water charges crosses the Matt Talbot Bridge in Dublin yesterday.  Photo : Colin O'Riordan

Protest: March against water charges crosses the Matt Talbot Bridge in Dublin yesterday.  Photo : Colin O'Riordan

The water charges controversy dramatically escalated on two fronts yesterday as Fianna Fail threatened to block the election of a new Fine Gael Taoiseach, and new details emerged of a still-thriving bonus culture at Irish Water.

In an email to Fianna Fail TDs and senators yesterday, the party leadership warned it would not facilitate the election of a new Fine Gael Taoiseach unless the "confidence and supply" deal between both parties was honoured on water charges.

This amounts to the most overt pressure yet on Fine Gael to facilitate legislation to implement the Oireachtas water committee's recommendations on water charges. Fine Gael is now expected to increase legal pressure to torpedo the report at committee stage this week.

The dramatic escalation in the political row between both parties - in effect, a Fianna Fail threat to bring down the Government with Enda Kenny possibly still Fine Gael leader - comes as this newspaper also reveals details of lucrative bonuses paid out to Irish Water staff as recently as last month.

Irish Water suspended the bonus scheme in late 2014, following a public backlash.

But now payments over and above salary have been made to each staff member and gold-plated health insurance packages have been made available to executives and their spouses.

Car allowances and specially funded fitness instructors are also among the perks enjoyed at Irish Water.

Today's revelations are likely to reignite public disquiet at Irish Water and fuel opposition to water charges.

The bonus details emerged under the Freedom of Information Act as tensions between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have ratcheted up to an unprecedented level.

Fianna Fail's new position, a threat to oppose the election of a new Fine Gael Taoiseach, comes as the Sunday Independent reveals that just last month all 675 staff at Irish Water each received a bonus payment of almost €5,000 on average, or €3.2m in total.

On top of that, 11 senior executives each received blue chip health insurance cover for themselves and their spouses, worth more than an additional €5,000 a year.

It has also emerged that €22,328 has been spent on providing specialist fitness lessons for staff who avail of an in-house gym at Irish Water. Gym classes are said to be mandatory to comply with "health and safety regulations".

Overall, 32 Irish Water staff earn more than €100,000. A new company car, worth €41,998, was also purchased last year for the company's managing director Jerry Grant, and eight members of the senior management team also receive an annual car allowance of €10,500.

The bonus culture at Irish Water still exists even though water charges have been suspended and are on the verge of abolition.


Article abridged see full article by Mark O'Regan and Jody Corcoran: Apr 9 2017