SIMON Coveney is "living in cloud cuckoo land" if he thinks Irish Water will be able to reclaim unpaid water bills, according to Cork North Central TD Mick Barry.
The Anti-Austerity Alliance TD hit out at the Cork South Central Fine Gael Minister for saying yesterday that arrears must be paid, and for suggesting a limit of 123 litres per day before people face bills under the new water system to be devised by an Oireachtas committee in the coming weeks.
Mr Barry said: "Simon Coveney wants to penalise ordinary households that use a small bit more than the national average. This shows the need to scrap the water charges entirely rather than set a usage cutoff point above which people would pay."
Mr Coveney said that not having limits would be unfair, saying that one person could be filling a swimming pool and still pay the same tax as someone on the same street who uses a modest amount of water, an argument that Mr Barry called "pure nonsense."
"If he is genuinely concerned about this issue let him bring in a swimming pool tax and stop using this issue as a pathetic excuse for justifying water charges for half the country," said Mr Barry.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Brion, a member of the Oireachtas committee, said that Mr Coveney should "butt out" of the committees business and let them do their work.
"The committee has only met once and should be allowed to make its recommendations without being influenced by the opinion of Minister Coveney. Fine Gael has five members on the committee. They can make their case on what constitutes “excess use” when it comes up for debate during the committee.
"Sinn Féin is on record as saying the establishment of the expert commission and Oireachtas Committee was a farce. The government only went down this route to appease Fianna Fáil and to find a way of re-instating Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. Minister Coveney’s latest interference in the work of the Committee further demonstrates how the result of the water charge debate is a forgone conclusion in the minds of Fine Gael," he said.
Minister Coveney had set out potential limits for water usage, saying: “The average usage in Ireland is about 46,000 litres. To be exact it is about 123 litres per day for an average adult... We need to be at the national average and probably a little bit more than that so that people who are using water will have some flexibility around being a little bit above the average or below the average.”