The European Commission’s response to Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan about Ireland and the water framework directive
The European Commission has never made any official statements asserting that Ireland abolishing direct water charges would be in breach of the water framework directive.
The water framework directive, which was adopted in 2000, states that all EU member states may derogate from the water pricing obligations contained within the directive.
In a recent response to a written question submitted by Lynn Boylan, the European Commission confirmed that this derogation still exists. Yes, the response also stated that if “established practice” was a direct water charge then the flexibility to use the derogation would not apply, but here we come to the crux of the matter – “established practice”.
The European Commission is already on record as stating that it considers “established practices” to be those practices which were “an established practice at the time of adoption of the directive”. This directive was adopted on October 23rd, 2000, and transposed into Irish law in 2003, when it is beyond doubt that Ireland used general taxation as its established practice.
Additionally, since direct water charges were introduced in Ireland only in the last year and – far more significantly – since those charges have been rejected by the people, charging directly for water is not the established practice in Ireland.
Furthermore, in a 2014 landmark case on EU water recovery rules, the European Court of Justice found in favour of Germany, after the European Commission tried unsuccessfully to take that state to court for, in its opinion, failing to fulfil its water framework directive obligations. The judgment conclusively stated that it cannot be inferred that the absence of pricing for water service activities will necessarily jeopardise the attainment of the water framework directive.
As recently as January 2016, more than one year after the establishment of Irish Water, in a response to a written question which asked if Ireland would be in breach of the water framework directive if water charges were dropped, the European Commission simply stated that the second river basin management plans would be assessed against the requirements of the directive. Anything else is simply conjecture.
The European Commission has also confirmed in emails to Lynn Boylan and Marian Harkin that if Ireland would like to avail of Article 9.4 (the derogation) then it should submit that request in its second river basin management plan with justification. This second river basin management plan is now not due to be submitted until 2017, with plenty of time for Ireland to establish that derogation.
It is beyond doubt then that if the Irish Government so wishes, it can still use the derogation and justify its use in its river basin management plans, as has been done and is still being done by so many other European regions and countries.
In light of all the above, it is clear that certain commentators and politicians have distorted the debate by misconstruing or embellishing what the European Commission has put on record regarding the derogation from water pricing in the water framework directive.
Worse, it is also clear that many of those same politicians are deliberately twisting this clear, unequivocal situation and using it as an excuse not to avail of the derogation, which gives the Irish Government the final say in deciding on water charges.
Lynn Boylan MEP
Martina Anderson MEP
Matt Carthy MEP
Liadh Ní Riada MEP
Luke Ming Flanagan MEP
Nesss Childers MEP
Marian Harkin MEP.
This morning, newly appointed Housing Minister Simon Coveney spoke to Seán O’Rourke about housing on RTE Radio One this morning.
Towards the end of the interview, they discussed water charges – which will suspended for nine months, from the end of June, as a commission decides what to do.
The Fine Gael minister assured Mr O’Rourke, “I certainly agree that people who have paid already shouldn’t be disadvantaged financially in any way… People will not be allowed to get away without paying.”
Then Mr O’Rourke reminded Mr Coveney how Independent Alliance TD, who has been appointed a Super Junior Minister for Disability, Finian McGrath has not paid his water charges.
Being a ‘Super Junior’ minister means Mr McGrath can attend Cabinet meetings but cannot vote.
Grab a small tay…
Seán O’Rourke: “Meanwhile, sitting in the Cabinet room along with you and your colleagues, you have Finian McGrath who is proudly boasting that he has no intention of paying his water charges.”
Simon Coveney: “Well I haven’t seen him proudly boasting that and Finian will…”
O’Rourke: “Well stating as a matter of fact then, to put it maybe slightly less..”
Coveney: “Well now let’s not build this issue up into something it isn’t. I mean people should pay their water.”
O’Rourke: “It’s a minister flouting the law and he’s sitting in the same Cabinet room as you. Is that right?”
Coveney: “Well I think, you know,my view would be very similar to, to, you know, people like Regina Doherty and others who’ve been asked to comment on this.”
O’Rourke: “How can you expect people to pay water charges up until their suspended when you’re sitting beside somebody who just makes a virtue of not paying?”
Coveney: “Government minister should lead by example, it is the law to pay your taxes and Government ministers should pay taxes, including water charges and that’s a decision for Finian.”
O’Rourke: “It’s also a decision for the Taoiseach actually. Is he prepared to keep him in the room?”
Coveney: “Look, I mean, I’m not going to get into the Taoiseach’s view of that. I suspect the Taoiseach’s view is the same as mine. If you’re in Cabinet, you need to lead by example. If you’re a law maker, you need to be a law keeper.”
Did PWC have anything to do with Irish Water or DO’B/Siteserv deal? Do they know something the rest of us don’t? It seems to think water will be deducted at source if their on-line tax calculator is anything to go by… it was not present a few weeks ago.
in 2011, PricewaterhouseCoopers and McCann Fitzgerald were tasked with carrying out a report on the setting up of Irish Water.
In April 2012, former Environment Minister Phil Hogan spoke about the decision to award the Irish Water tender to Bord Gáis, rather than Bord na Móna, saying “the outside assessors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, had made the decision based on a long list of criteria”.
In January 2014, it was revealed that former Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s department paid €179,584 paid to PricewaterhouseCoopers for “consultancy services” on the establishment of Irish Water.
And in a statement issued earlier this month, Siteserv stated:
“The transaction to acquire Siteserc PLC (in liquidation) by [Denis O’Brien’s] Millington in 2012 was conducted entirely in full compliance with best corporate practice and best corporate governance standards as already publicly stated by the Directors of Siteserv PLC (in liquidation). The sale process on behalf of Siteserv PLC (in liquidation) was assisted by KPMG Corporate Finance and Davy Corporate Finance overseen by a sub-committee of the Board of the company and was subject to and EGM of the company’s shareholders. IBRC had a representative on the sub-committee and was advised by PwC Corporate Finance.“
You may recall former CEO of Bord Gáis John Mullins stepped down from his role in December 2012, and later replaced by Michael McNicholas.
Mr Mullins was appointed as non-executive chairman of Heneghan PR earlier this month.
Heneghan PR – which does PR for Siteserv – is headed by Nigel Heneghan, advisor to Leslie Buckley, spokesman for INM and, most recently, a member of the compliance committee of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, a position he was appointed to by the Government, without any public recruitment process.
Campaign ‘literature’ for the No side in a recent water charges referendum
in Trinity College Dublin
Two weeks ago, a water charges referendum was held in Trinity College Dublin in order to give the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) an official position on the introduction of water charges.
The students were asked if they should campaign to abolish water charges.
Of the 4,619 who voted, 2,110 students (46%) voted ‘Yes’.
Further to this…
Liam Crowley writes in Trinity News:
“On the point of the referendum campaign, it must be pointed out that the ‘No’ side engaged in misleading and disingenuous tactics. The leaflets and posters issued by the ‘No’ campaign were designed along a myth/fact type of structure. It was presented as being a myth that ‘Irish water will be privatised’. The corresponding ‘fact’ was that ‘only the Irish people can decide to privatise Irish Water through a referendum.’ This is far removed from the truth.”
“The government has forcefully resisted all demands that the semi-state company ‘Irish Water’ be protected from privatisation by ensuring a referendum is provided in the case of any government wanting to sell the company. The Oireachtas, where a government majority is in-built, will be the place where any decision to privatise our water is taken.”
“Irish people could not have less control over our water than as it stands with the current formation of water charges. If privatisation of our water was not on the agenda, then a referendum would have been guaranteed in the event of possible water privatisation. The blatant untruth that currently a referendum is necessary for water privatisation should not have escaped college media scrutiny and the SU’s Electoral Commission should have acted decisively to stop the dissemination of false information.”