Accusations of political spin and misinformation were flying yesterday over the announcement that every home in the country is about to get a leaflet in their letterbox on changes to water services.
Laois Offaly TD Brian Stanley called on Minister Phil Hogan to “stop spinning yarns and misinformation about water charges” saying the leaflets were “propaganda” with no information on water charges.
In reply a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said “the spin and misinformation in this case is coming from Dep Stanley”, and Minister Hogan “made no such announcement”, saying the leaflets came from Bord Gáis.
However Bord Gáis Éireann, who will run the new public authority Irish Water, announced on their website that they were launching the leaflet - A guide to the establishment of Irish Water – with the Department and it would be delivered to every home by February 22.
They include comments from Junior Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd welcoming the bilingual leaflet.
“Water is a valuable resource, and while Ireland has an abundance of water resources, the cost of providing treated drinking water and the collection and treatment of our wastewater is expensive.
The establishment of Irish Water provides the means to achieve these goals through sustainable funding and increased investment, resulting in better services for us all. I urge everybody to take the time to read this information leaflet and keep it for reference,” Dep O’Dowd said.
Dep Stanley, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on the environment, said the leaflets were “a waste of tax payers’ money”.
“They are no more than government propaganda sheets. They know they are losing the battle over water charges before it has even begun. The leaflets fail to inform when charges will actually be imposed or how much the water charges will be. The government claims that 186,000 meters will be installed this year with another 400,000 installed in 2014. Sinn Féin will oppose the water charges bill this week in the Dáil. The bill is unfair, unjust and unworkable. If the bill is passed then the government can expect strong opposition from the public to water charges,” he said.
Irish Water plan to begin meter installations in July this year.
“Over one million homes will be metered by 2016. This programme and the related customer support will create over 2,000 jobs.” says John Barry, Irish Water Programme Director.
The leaflet marks the first phase of their public information campaign.
“It provides useful information about how the new system will work, details in relation to the introduction of water charges and water meters and the key timelines of the Irish Water programme.
“We hope that by having this information readily available it will address some of the questions and concerns that people may have in relation to the transformation of water services in Ireland,” he said.