Local Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O’Rourke told Monday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District that he is “at his wits’ end” in relation to the procedures and practices of Irish Water.
Stating that his words should not be interpreted as “a political rant”, Cllr O’Rourke said the response time of the utility in fixing problems has left many pensioners to fend for themselves.
Cllr O’Rourke told the story of one senior resident of Athlone, Mrs Cleary in Columbas Terrace, who has been forced to “rod out” a combined sewer junction at the back of her house each morning for the past number of months due to blockages. He said he had made numerous representations on her behalf but the most that was achieved initially amounted to the taking of videos and photographs by the utility’s engineers.
Cllr O’Rourke said practices of this kind have not and will not work. He said there are numerous other instances of this kind and that Irish Water’s conduct in these matters amounted to “abuse of the elderly”. He called for the responsibility for maintenance to be brought back under the remit of the county council going forward. “Our lads know these systems inside out,” he said. “They would have done the job in a matter of days. It took Irish Water months.”
Fine Gael councillor John Dolan said he understood Cllr O’Rourke’s frustrations. He said he had one similar experience whereby he called the utility’s call centre to report an issue in Moate, at which point he was asked what part of Dublin Moate was in. Cllr Dolan added that local knowledge and experience can go a long way and should be utilised more in these matters. He suggested that Irish Water should look to employ someone from each general area to achieve this.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan said evidence is showing that Irish Water is not working. He said he finds it difficult to understand why the council cannot tackle certain issues when it has the expertise in place to do so. He added that Irish Water and water charges in general are a “dead duck” and that responsibility should be passed back to the local authority sector.
Independent councillor Michael O’Brien said while he feels the utility’s response time has improved of late, it is still necessary to “go to the ends of the earth” when giving directions to a certain location. He noted that constituents continue to come to local councillors regarding issues like burst mains, and supported the call for the council to take over maintenance work.