Irish Water refunds make waves

Irish Water is facing an administrative headache to meet the target set by incoming Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, of ensuring almost one million households get their water charges refunded by the end of the year.

Varadkar said the process of repaying families up to €325 will kick-start in the autumn. Exactly how this will be handled has yet to be nailed down. Homeowners who paid their water charges will have to apply to get their money back, according to reports

An online application process has been touted as the preferred option for refunding Irish Water’s domestic customers. Householders who paid the fees would be expected to provide proof of payment before the money will be returned.

Minister are insisting that the €170 million needed for refunds will be taken from 2017 resources and will not impact on Budget 2018.

Housing minister Eoghan Murphy has been charged with overseeing the plan along with finance minister Paschal Donohoe, who has sought approval from the European Commission to make the one-off payment.

There has already been controversy over where the refund money is coming from. Opposition politicians are deeply concerned that water refunds seem to be coming from the housing budget, a prospect of considerable political sensitivity.

Meanwhile in a separate but related move the Cabinet has had to sign off on the continued suspension of water charges until the end of the year. A current logjam of unfinished legislative business has left no parliamentary time for the consideration of the Bill which will ensure the clear majority of Irish households will never be billed for water again.