Irish Water protesters outside the GPO in Dublin on June 20
John Downing, of the Irish Independent, spoke to Keelin Shanley as she sat in for Seán O’Rourke on RTE Radio One this morning.
The interview followed this morning’s reports that Eurostat is expected to rule that the State funds spent on Irish Water will have to remain on the Exchequer balance sheet until at least 2017.
Ms Shanley said, despite attempts by RTE to have somebody from Government speak on the show, nobody was available.
During the interview, they discussed the strength of the anti-water charges movement…
Keelin Shanley: “You would have to say politically: this is messy for them [Government], they’ve already had an awful lot of controversy around water charges. The movement did seem to be dying down, the anti-water charges movement, a little. How big a political fiasco is this for them?”
John Downing: “I believe it has that the anti-water charge movement was losing impetus and I think the Government were confident that it would be less of an election issue. This brings it right back. However, the timing of this news coming out is interesting: people going, already on holidays, people coming back from holidays, I think the Government will be hoping that it won’t be as noticeable as it might if it had emerged in September or October but it is very difficult for them and, at all events, we are now heading right into the teeth of an election campaign.”
Shanley: “I suppose the problem with this decision is that it seems to imply incompetence, that the Government thought the decision would go in another direction, you know, rather than implying that you might disagree with the ideology, the basic idea of paying for water, it says something about the way in which they’re working.”
Downing: “I believe so and I believe there was a point where, of all things, all the products, all the nasty products of austerity, water charges, for the bulk of middle Ireland was seen as reasonable and if we could see improved service and so on that people could have lived with it. I think, when you go back again to the point about the growth errors made by Irish Water, they have completely very, very seriously damaged that whole principle and, on that basis, at the end, as you say, it does, voters are entitled to say that this reflects on the competence of Government.”