Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Minister in vow over new water firm

Environment Minister Phil Hogan has confirmed people will not be forced to make up-front payments for the installation of water meters

A new utility company being set up to oversee household water supplies and charges will not be sold off to the private sector, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has insisted.

Irish Water, which will operate under semi-state body Bord Gais, will be tasked with installing and running a metered network by the end of 2014.

And the minister insisted that the firm will remain in public hands even if the parent company is sold off in a disposal of state assets.

"Legislation will be put in place to ensure Irish Water remains in state ownership in relation to the sale of state assets," Mr Hogan said.

Announcing the new company, Mr Hogan gave assurances that the public will not be forced to make upfront payments for meters - a must-have before charges come into effect by the end of 2014.

It is estimated that they must be installed in about one million homes and critics have warned there is not enough time between now and the end of next year. But Mr Hogan said he is confident between 90 and 95% of houses will be metered by the deadline.

It was also stressed that under the control of Bord Gais Irish Water would have the capacity to raise funds for capital investments on the financial markets in a similar fashion to the ESB.

In a statement Bord Gais said the new utility is an opportunity to establish a commercially successful infrastructure company and a valuable asset for the State.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams rejected the idea that making small annual payments to cover the cost of installing water meters would be less burdensome on householders than forcing them to fork out a lump sum.

The Co Louth TD said: "Straws break camels' backs. We know that people can't afford the septic tank charge, can't afford the household charge, can't afford VAT increases, and they can't afford the hike in public transport."

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