'Will not pay' | 

Meath pensioner ‘ready to fight’ after €1,678 bill from Electric Ireland lands on doorstep

Gerry Clarke has said he ‘will not pay’ the bill for the period from December 9 to February 10

Gerry Clarke at home in Co Meath with his most recent bill from Electric Ireland. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Paul HylandIndependent.ie

A pensioner from Co Meath believes he has received the highest domestic electricity bill “in the world” and said he “will not pay it”.

Gerry Clarke (77) lives in his rural home, in Robinstown, near Navan, with his son and daughter-in-law.

An Electric Ireland customer, he said that this time last year his electricity bill was €290.

However, this week he received a bill for €1,678.65 for the period running from December 9 to February 10.

At the start of December, Mr Clarke received a bill for €671.09, and another for €483.76 in October.

Oil is used to heat his home, while electricity is mostly used for lighting, appliances and a water pump.

Mr Clarke keeps horses and he uses a horse-walker machine for the animals – but he insisted “that has been the case for the last 15 years” and it would not account for the sudden surge in his electricity bills.

“This is what I can’t understand – nothing has changed,” he said.

Mr Clarke said his son and daughter-in-law are away from the house “seven-eighths of the time, at work” and he spends most of the day “keeping busy outside, doing odd jobs”.

His son Gerard said he cannot understand how the bills are so high either because “nobody is in the place most of the time”.

Mr Clarke said he spent 45 minutes on the phone with Electric Ireland’s customer care team on Tuesday.

He said he is not in a position to pay the bill and he is “going to fight it”.

“If it was any other country people would be out on the streets. Ireland for some strange reason sits back and accepts it. Well, I’m not going to accept it,” he said. "My bill went from €290 to €1,678.65. There’s no rhyme nor reason to the whole thing.

“I put on the heating in the evening because I maintain there’s no point having a successful life if you can’t have a bit of heating in the evening and we (older people) feel the cold more than young people.”

It came as research by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) Ireland found that in 2022, 377,000 people lived in homes they were unable to afford to heat adequately. The figure for 2021 was 160,000.

“Keeping warm is a basic human need and behind each bill, disconnected pre-pay meter up or empty oil tank is a person trying to cope with the stress and strain of keeping their home warm and the lights switched on,” Nessan Vaughan of SVP said.

Mr Clarke said the energy crisis is “down to bad management” by the Government and he has lost confidence in the country’s leaders. He argued there would be no need for emergency supports such as energy credits if the “system was efficiently run”.

Upon opening his latest electricity bill, Gerry said he almost “had to be scraped off the floor”.

He showed it to someone who specialises in statistics and they estimated that “it’s not the dearest in Europe, it’s the dearest bill for a household in the world”.

“I love a good fight especially, when I’m on the right side,” he added. “I am determined to fight this thing, and not on my behalf, but on the behalf of Ireland.”

A spokesperson for Electric Ireland said the organisation “does not comment on individual customer accounts but offers a range of customer supports”.

“Electric Ireland has not increased its residential prices since October 1, 2022, and is acutely aware of the impact of energy bills on families and businesses – we will continue to keep prices under constant review,” they added.

Mr Clarke contacted “nine TDs” about his most recent bill and the only one who “took up the gauntlet” was Meath West TD Johnny Guirke, of Sinn Féin.

Mr Guirke raised the issue with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil, and said he was also aware of a 100-year-old woman, named Kitty, who recently received an Electric Ireland bill for €957.49.

“She only uses a fridge, washing machine, immersion heater, lighting and two electric heaters on timers, with no central heating”, he said.

Mr Guirke said Transport Minister Eamon Ryan “needs to get the finger out and deal with these energy companies, which are making massive profits on the back of pensioners and the Irish public”.

Speaking in response, Mr Varadkar said he has heard of instances of people receiving “extremely high bills” and “unfortunately, there is another one on the way”.

“The next step is the introduction of a windfall tax so that we can take back some of the profits of the energy companies and give them back to people to help them with their bills,” he added.

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