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Frustrated councillors demand ‘open forum’ to be set up with Irish Water

November 30th, 2021 10:10 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Cllrs Paul Hayes (Ind), above, and Joe Carroll (FF) spoke of their frustrations at trying to get information from Irish Water.

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A LETTER of complaint about Irish Water is to be sent to the Department of Environment after members of Cork County Council’s Western Division expressed their frustration with the service.

The suggestion was made by Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) after a lengthy discussion in which one complaint after another was made by the Council members.

It was Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) who raised the issue. He said he had been asking for months for a report on Clonakilty’s wastewater treatment plant and whether, or not, it is causing a foul odour in the bay area.

‘I have not received a reply and I would like to get a reply,’ said Cllr Hayes, who was advised by the divisional manager that it is a matter for Irish Water, and not Cork County Council.

Cllr Hayes said he wanted to raise the issue at the Council meetings because it is a public platform.

He said attempts to deal directly with Irish Water on this issue have proved unsuccessful.

‘They don’t seem to be forthcoming with any answers. It is very frustrating,’ he added.

Cllr Hayes insisted that the Council members ‘cannot wash our hands of it completely.’ And he asked the county manager directly, ‘Is the workings of the wastewater treatment plant nothing to do with the Council anymore?’ To which the manager Clodagh Henehan replied, ‘That is accurate.’

Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) also spoke of his frustration of trying to get through to someone in authority at Irish Water. He said a so-called ‘special’ number just gets him through to a switchboard and he likened that to ‘talking to the postman.’

The manager said the feedback from Irish Water is that they want to engage with the councillors through the Irish Water clinics. ‘That, going forward, is going to be your strongest route,’ she said.

But Cllr Carroll said he found the clinics to be ‘a weak response’ to a variety of issues from leaks to major problems in the West Cork area.

Cllr Karen Coakley (FG) and Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) also spoke of their frustration. According to Cllr Hurley, ‘This is totally unacceptable. It is not for the county manager or the divisional engineer to explain matters. We should write to the department of environment and outline our disquiet.

‘The department should intervene,’ he added, ‘because this is going on far too long. We should write to the department and highlight this inadequate carry on.

‘We need direct contact with Irish Water and direct answers,’ said Cllr Hurley, while the mayor Gillian Coughlan (FF) agreed, ‘This is a matter of local democracy and legitimacy.’

The mayor said, ‘Some formal mechanism – where we have accountability from Irish Water – is needed.’

She said she would write asking Irish Water to institute these measures and to provide ‘an open forum.’

Irish Water said it ‘values the engagement with elected representatives right around the country and always endeavours to communicate in the most effective way possible with our customers, elected representatives and relevant stakeholders.’

‘Councillors are asked to send Irish Water their queries when they are confirming their attendance at clinics where possible, to ensure that the appropriate personnel from Irish Water are there to answer their queries. Representatives of key projects would also be in attendance at quarterly clinics,’ it said.

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