The frustrations of local people in Tallanstown came to the fore during their public meeting with TDs, general election hopefuls and councillors on Wednesday which resulted in some testy exchanges as residents demanded answers and accountability.
600 properties, and lots more individuals, have been affected by the Boil Water Notice put in place by Irish Water and Louth County Council on July 30 last and there was noticeable scepticism on Wednesday after Irish Water confirmed they hoped to lift the notice for no fewer than 580 properties.
Residents will wait and see but whenever the BWN is lifted for all, an adequate water supply is restored and life returns to normal, the desire for accountability remains.
“They are not accountable to the people of Tallanstown,” local man Kevin Carroll said. “All these people want is a solution to the problem.” In reference to Declan Breathnach TD’s suggestion that booster pumps be installed on the Cavan Hill and Ardee supplies, he added, “Booster pumps? They increase pressure and we all know, pressure is for tyres.”
After all of the elected representatives had addressed the meeting – at which no Irish Water representative was made available – the floor was opened up and Irish Water became the subject of most people’s ire.
“If the Oireachtas members want to do something useful, ask for the abolition of the quango known as Irish Water,” local man Sean Walsh said. “It is done nothing only harm since it was created. Its cost money and squandered money. It’s a shambles and a disgrace.”
When another attendee pointed out Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd’s role in setting up Irish Water, O’Dowd said, “I have no difficulty defending that decision to you or anybody else. If you didn’t have Irish Water yo wouldn’t be able to deal with the issue of the Greater Dublin water supply. I stand over everything I do.
“The fact is Irish Water has to be accountable, and I will do my best to ensure that happens,” continued O’Dowd, who is a former Junior Minister with responsibility for Irish Water.
One woman in attendance at the meeting, a mother, pleaded with public representatives for help. “We just want answers. We voted you all in and we need you to stand up for us now. I have a brand new baby at home and I can’t wash her or make her bottle. We need your help.”
People from Tallanstown and the surrounding areas made their displeasure at the situation clear. Some stated they felt let down and not represented by those people elected to do to so.
It didn’t go down particularly well when 45 minutes into the meeting, the five general election candidates in the room – O’Dowd, Declan Breathnach, Peter Fiztpatrick, Ruairi O Murchu and John McGahon – had to leave to attend a prior engagement, an IFA meeting in Monasterboice. The scheduling clash is no one’s fault.
“There was a Boil Water Notice in north county Dublin and that seemed to be fixed pretty quickly. What we have here is an urban-rural divide. People here are marginalised because you’re living in a rural area.
One local couple said that went to Louth County Council with a bottle of water from their tap that contained very small spider like creatures. “We were told they would do you no harm,” they said. They echoed sentiments from elsewhere in the room that Tallanstown locals had been treated this way because they lived in a rural area.
“It’s always about Dublin. It’s never about rural areas,” she added.
It was also claimed at the meeting that residents were told they did not meet the threshold for receiving bottled water from Irish Water, despite the Boil Water notice initially affecting 2,000 properties. Residents say there were told the water provisions would be only be provided to 10,000 customers or more.
LouthNow.ie has reached out to Irish Water for comment on that.
Independent Jim Tenanty, one of three local councillors to sit down with Irish Water early on during the process, was apologetic to those in attendance at the meeting. “I am sorry to the people of Tallanstown and the area. I tried my best,” he said.
“I have been involved with this from day one. I asked the difficult question – what the hell happened? Was it a manning error? They wouldn’t answer. The people need and deserve answers.”
His Ardee Municipal District colleague Hugh Conlon said Irish Water were chasing him for arrears that he refuses to pay. “Everything has fallen into total disrepair. I have a dispute with them. They are looking for arrears off me for three of four hundreds euro which I refuse to pay because I do not owe it. Ridiculous nonsense.
Before his departure, Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach urged people to look and and understand the bigger picture.
“We think in this country because it rains we have plenty of water. We don’t have the storage capacity, we don’t have the treatment capacity to deal with the population.”