Irish Water refund fears cost the government €70 million

By Ken Foxe

THE government took a €70 million hit on water charges because they feared legal issues over trying to recoup the water conservation grant.

The €100 grant had been paid to householders on a universal basis and many who claimed it never actually paid any water charges.

A briefing note prepared for the Department of Housing shows how three options were given on how to refund households that had paid their water bills.

The document was only released after nearly year-long battle with the Department during which they repeatedly refused to make it public.

The then minister Simon Coveney was told the cheapest option would be to refund customers while taking account of payment of the €100 conservation grant.

That would have cost €100 million for the refunds and an estimated €9 to €11 million in administrative costs in sifting out who was owed what.

The document was only made public after almost a year of effort to have it released under either FOI or EU regulations covering access to information on the environment.

Its release had been the subject of a review by the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information since last November.

However, the Department decided they would release it without being forced to saying they “no longer [had] any reason to withhold the note”.

Read the document below.