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Criticisms of how Irish Water communicate with the public on outages have been aired by Clare councillors.

Elected representatives in the county have said issues relating to Irish Water’s communication on outages have been ongoing for up to eight months.

Separate proposals were put before Clare County Council with Cllr John Crowe (FG) asking that in the case of contamination, leaks, boil notices and restrictions that group scheme secretaries be notified “to eliminate any confusion”.

Citing a “serious breakdown on Irish Water’s network,” Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF), Cllr Crowe, Pat O’Gorman (FF), Cllr Mary Howard (FG) and Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) asked that information “be relayed as a matter of urgency” to local media, the County Council, group water schemes and elected representatives with daily updates.

Duane O’Brien of Irish Water’s asset operations confirmed that direct contact is made with Clare County Council, local representatives and the media when group water schemes are affected. He said “extensive information” is shared on their website. “Irish Water are always working to improve this communication process to provide the most up to date information to public representatives and the general public,” he added.

Speaking on the matter, Cllr Crowe outlined, “It is a problem that has been going on for the last six or eight months, we’ve had a lot of breakdowns”. The Sixmilebridge representative noted that not every member of the public owns an iPhone and are therefore left in the dark when it comes to getting updates on water outages.

“Communication was a huge problem,” Cllr O’Callghan recalled of the elevated levels of manganese in the water which affected more than 7,500 homes in Cratloe, Sixmilebridge, Kilmurry, Kilkishen and Quin in August. “I thought Irish Water reacted very slow, it was do not consume which is very serious. Not everyone has access to the internet especially the elderly. It said Shannon and Newmarket-on-Fergus was not affected but a Ballycar scheme which is half a mile from Newmarket-on-Fergus was hugely affected, anyone that read the notice on Irish Water’s website said Newmarket-on-Fergus wasn’t affected but a share of it was, misleading information was put out there. The communication from Irish Water was substandard and very misleading”.

Notices should be put out on local radio as soon as a disruption is known, Cllr O’Gorman felt. “The information coming out was virtually zero,” he said of the August outage. The Cratloe man said that he was informed by the secretary of the Rossmanagher group water scheme that what was flowing out at the time “was blacker than Guinness”.

Some sympathy for Irish Water was voiced by Cllr Cooney, “Unfortunately it happened early of a Saturday. In general I think it is a learning lesson for Irish Water going forward”.

Confusion at the time was “unreal,” Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) reflected as she paid tribute to the continued efforts of local authority staff. Fellow Shannon representative, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) remarked, “It is obvious now, Irish Water are not fit for purpose”.

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