MEMBERS of Cork County Council unanimously agreed to write to Uisce Éireann and the Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien seeking ways to improve their levels of communication with the state-owned water utility company.
The councillors reacted angrily to a letter they received from the company after they had initially penned a letter on January 9, expressing their dissatisfaction with Uisce Éireann Councillor Clinics and seeking the appointment of liaison officers for given areas to ensure effective communication with councillors.
Uisce Éireann, in response to the council letter, said they have started a review with how they engage with local authorities and added they will consider the suggestion of appointing liaison officers.
Fine Gael councillor John Paul O’Shea said meetings need to be physically held every quarter with Irish Water executives. “I was one of seven councillors who attended a clinic in October. I refused to go to the councillor clinic in February because I was still waiting for answers to my queries from the October meeting, so that is not effective communication. We need to meet physically on a three-month basis, and we need Irish Water executives to be with us,” he said.
Independent councillor Declan Hurley who deputised for the Mayor of the County of Cork at the full council meeting said their reply was not good enough.
“It is a copy and paste letter and is not good enough. It doesn’t address any of the requests we put to them. We need a proper response. The fact that members of Cork County Council are not attending these councillor clinics is a visible protest that we are not satisfied with the service we are getting from Uisce Éireann.
“The clinics are ineffective and unproductive. We need to send a message back.” Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath repeated the call for a liaison officer to be appointed. “It is critical that we have a consistent point of contact so that when issues arise, we are not just put on to a helpdesk. We need to have a clear point of contact so we can work together to address issues. They need to urgently reform their engagement with elected members.”
Fine Gael councillor Sinead Sheppard said: “They just don’t engage with councillors at all. It is time to see action from Irish Water.”
It was also agreed to send a copy of the letter to the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG) and the Local Authorities Members Association (LAMA) representative groups.