Fianna Fáil has again called on the Government to include Irish Water under the remit of the Ombudsman Office, after the Ombudsman today raised concerns about the absence of any independent complaints procedure for water customers.

Speaking on Newstalk radio this morning, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall expressed concern that members of the public are no longer entitled to go to the Ombudsman about their water services. The Government removed this public right when it ensured that Irish Water does not come under the remit of the Ombudsman.

Fianna Fáil published a Bill in April to expand the remit of the Ombudsman’s office to include Irish Water, Bord Gáis Éireann and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). The party’s Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen is now appealing to the Government to take these proposals on board.

“Irish Water is a public utility that is funded by the taxpayer and now controls a vital public service used by every single household and business in this State. It is completely unacceptable that customers, who are paying heavily for this service, do not have access to any independent complaints procedure if they receive a sub-standard service,” said Deputy Cowen.

“It’s further evidence that the needs of ordinary householders were at the bottom of the list of priorities when the Government first started building its water charging regime two years ago. The entire focus has been setting up a corporate entity to charge people, with absolutely no consideration of the customers’ rights and the service they will receive.

“The fact is that in the tens of millions of investment poured into the establishment of Irish Water, investment in the actual network has not been a feature. The super quango has already cost taxpayers a fortune on consultants’ fees, staff perks and bonuses and water metering, but not one leaky pipe has been fixed and no community has seen any improvement in water quality. There is no doubt that households plagued by boil water notices, hard water and supply issues will soon be paying hundreds of euro a year for a service that has seen no improvement whatsoever. Where do these people go to complain?

“Under pressure from Fianna Fáil, the Government has been forced to bring Irish Water under the remit of the Freedom of Information, having refused on several occasions to do so. I am now appealing to them to do the right thing and ensure that this State monopoly is also included in the Ombudsman’s remit before households across the country begin to rack up charges,” said Deputy Cowen.