Laws allowing unpaid water bills to be deducted from wages and welfare payments have been passed by the Seanad.
The Civil Debt Bill was passed in a vote this evening by 20 votes to 13 and now goes to Aras an Úachtaráin to be signed into law this weekend.
The bill can apply to any debts between €500 and €4,000 - including utility bills and debts to small businesses or sole traders. The court-based measures provide for attachment of earnings or deduction from some social welfare payments where the debtor has the capacity to repay the money owed.
However it does not include consumer debts owed to financial institutions or licensed moneylenders.
The passage of the bill has been welcomed by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who says it offers "balanced" measures for recovering debts.
In a statement, Minister Fitzgerald said, “the Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill also abolishes imprisonment of debtors and fulfils a commitment made in the Programme for Government in this regard. This is an important milestone.
"These are balanced measures which add two new District Court options to the existing suite available to creditors. However, they include important safeguards for debtors including an obligation on the court to examine the financial circumstances of the debtor before applying the attachment or deduction order procedure," she added.
Opposition politicians have criticised the bill and the manner of its introduction, with Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald saying it showed the 'contempt' the Government has "for the tens of thousands of people who came onto the streets of Dublin and elsewhere, who have said to you directly that this austerity tax is about as popular as an oil spill along the Atlantic coast".