Wednesday, 6 November 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Michelle Mulherin (Fine Gael)
A number of weeks ago, we had the welcome announcement of the Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. It provides important funding for rural dwellers in order that they can have proper and adequate water supplies to their houses. Funding was allocated to Mayo and other rural counties that will lead to great benefits for many people in areas that would otherwise be at a loss.However, I have to take issue with the expert panel that was put together to assess various applications submitted by the local authorities, Mayo County Council in this case. It has failed the people of Downpatrick, which is a rural area outside Ballycastle in north Mayo. This scheme was recognised and designated as a number one priority for Mayo County Council. The reason for this is if the Government does not intervene and help these people get a water supply, there will be no water supply. The problem stems from the fact that there are naturally occurring adverse ground conditions whereby the ground contains iron, manganese and arsenic. The water cannot really be treated. A grant to bore a well is available and many of these people have availed of that. When the machinery or the equipment breaks down, they cannot wash clothes or have showers. They have to go to a village pump in the middle of Ballycastle to get some sort of proper drinking water. They have been at this for years. Since about 2008, they had been set and expectant that they would get a new water scheme and as we all remember, we had the economic crash and the CLÁR scheme for rural areas was discontinued. This is a number one priority and clearly these people cannot do anything unless the Government helps them. They have waited over the years, the rules have been modified and every time we hoped the net would be cast wide enough and they would be facilitated to get what is a basic right we all talk about, namely water. These people have not had it for years and there has not been too much outcry over that, other than on my own part. The issue is it is costing €13,500 per house and the average cost allowed is €9,000 per house.
My issue with this expert panel from the Environmental Protection Authority, EPA, Irish Water and the Department is there is provision within their own criteria for exceptional funding to be provided in exceptional cases. This is an exceptional case and it ticks the boxes of their criteria, yet nowhere in the country has been given exceptional funding. There is a clear case for exceptional funding for these 17 households. I ask that this be revisited. I have spoken with the Minister and I wish to highlight this here today. These people in rural Ireland deserve fair play and a basic service. They are old and young people and they need to live in the space they are in but they cannot do so the way the water supply is.