COUNCILLORS have expressed concerns that contact with Irish Water could diminish when the utility body assumes full management of public water services in June.
Mayor of Letterkenny Donal Kelly revealed how he had been asking for a face-to-face meeting with Irish Water chiefs for months but to no avail.
He highlighted a string of problems that had been brought to his attention by constituents and that he wanted to raise with the water authority.
The county’s water infrastructure was front and centre of the latest meeting of the Letterkenny and Milford Municipal District when three separate motions were tabled.
In response to a call from Councillor Ian McGarvey for Donegal County Council to retain shared delivery of water, the local authority said operations had transferred to Irish Water, or Uisce Éireann as it is now known, as of January 1.
Full management and operational control is expected to be in place by June.
Among the concerns raised were that the takeover could lead to water charges being resurrected. These mirror fears aired by trade union SIPTU which represents council staff who work in water services and who are set to transfer to Uisce Éireann between this year and the end of 2026.
SIPTU, along with other unions, has called for a constitutional referendum to ensure water services continue to be delivered for the public good and not private profit.
Councillor Donal Kelly said he was “fed up” trying to get Irish Water bosses around the table to discuss matters that had been brought to him by members of the public.
He said, “I know a family in Newmills that was quoted €68,000 for 30 or 40 yards of a connection. I was shown the quotation and I found it unbelievable.
“I personally feel Irish Water are treating us like a tick box exercise and that as public representatives we are not being listened to.
“We have major issues that need addressed,” Councillor Kelly added.
He pointed to Rossbracken where he said residents had been left without water over the last two festive periods.
Householders in Raymoghy, Bomany and Manorcunningham were living with very low water pressure which was impacting on their daily lives, he added.
“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rung Irish Water and every single time I’ve said I want someone to contact me directly. I’m still waiting.
My concern is that with the way things are and the fact that we can’t get a face to face meeting now, come June we will have no chance at all.”
Uisce Éireann said its engagement with elected representatives was and would continue to be “extremely important”.
The company added that its most recent ‘councillor clinic’ for Letterkenny and Milford took place in November and that the process of developing the clinic schedule for 2023 was under way.
Uisce Éireann said that elected members could make contact, Monday to Friday, through the Local Representative Support Desk.
A spokesperson said, “In Donegal, councillor clinics are held throughout the year at municipal district level where elected representatives can meet our Uisce Éireann experts and discuss local issues and projects. If we are unable to provide the relevant information on the day we will follow up and respond as quickly as possible.
“I would like to assure you that it is our intention to continue to provide accurate and up-to-date responses to any queries raised by elected representatives as quickly as possible.
“Our regional communications team also provide regular updates to elected representatives concerning upcoming projects and upgrades in the area via regular press releases and outreach.
“Staff on the ground will remain in place during and after their transition to Uisce Éireann to ensure there is a seamless continuity of service and that the general public and businesses are unaffected by the transition.