Whose Water Is it Anyway?



Green Party’s Dan Boyle (left), Eamon Ryan (centre) and Trevor Sargent during the 2011 General Election

Further to the Green Party proposal of a referendum on the public ownership of our water.

Dan Boyle writes:

Public anger and frustration in Ireland at how water is being made available and is expected to be paid for, has come about because no one at a Government level has managed to provided a satisfactory answer as to who is benefitting from this?

As a basic essential of life water should be considered the ultimate public utility. The fear exists that by creating an Irish Water company the government is setting the scene to sell the country’s water infrastructure to the private sector and with that the ability to practically print money by being able to charge the public for the right to use water.

This is why the Green Party is calling on the Government to advance the legislation for a referendum on public ownership of water as a priority, and to ensure that it is included with the Bills already scheduled to be passed in order to hold other referenda in 2015.

Green Party councillors across the country have already submitted motions to their respective councils in Louth, Fingal, Dublin City, Dublin South, Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown, Wicklow and Kilkenny, calling for these councils to support a referendum on the public ownership of water.

The Green Party is proposing the inclusion of the following new Article 10.5 into Bunreacht na hÉireann, which would state:

“The State shall treat drinking water as an essential resource and in the interests of the common good the State shall not provide for the privatisation or commercialisation of water services for the people”.

If Irish Water has been established to rationalise services and provide economies of scale why has it increased the numbers working within it, increasing costs whilst introducing a bonus culture for not its work particularly well?

If introducing water charges in this way through this body is about encouraging water conservation, why are flat rate charges being made, that allow water users use as much water in whatever way they like?

If this method of seeking payment for water is to get consumers to think differently on how water is used, then how come the money isn’t being recycled in grants for householders to develop rainwater collection systems?

By any measure the steps taken by the Irish government on the future use and development of the country’s water infrastructure, with the establishment of the shambolic Irish Water company, is failing on every level. A constitutional provision is necessary to prevent this and any future governments from making any further mistakes.

Dan Boyle is a former TD and Senator.

Sign the petition here

(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)

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50 thoughts on “Whose Water Is it Anyway?

  1. Am I Still on this Island?

    Refresh my memory, but wasn’t it the Green Party that signed off on Irish Water in the first place???

    1. Dan Boyle

      No. There has never been a requirement to establish Irish Water. That has been a Fine Gael proposal since 2009.

      1. Am I Still on this Island?

        From Wikipedia:

        ‘In October 2009, however, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party agreed on a Renewed Programme for Government, which pledged to introduce domestic water charges based on a system of a free allowance per household, with charges only on usage in excess of the allowance. In October 2010, the administration’s ‘National Recovery Plan 2010-2014’ pledged that metering would form part of charges. Metering was to be introduced by 2014. As part of the EC-ECB-IMF Programme of Assistance to Ireland, agreed in November 2010, the Coalition agreed to the introduction of domestic water charges in 2012/2013.’

        The Green Party signed off on this pledge. Wow. The hypocrisy of the Green Party is as brazen as ever.

        1. Ryano

          None of that required the setting up of Irish Water. Irish Water was an FG policy in the 2011 election.

          1. Am I Still on this Island?

            Oh, that’s ok then. So the Green Party had no problem in government commodifying water, but now they’re complaining about it. In the same way, they opposed the Incineration Plant in opposition, and backed it when they were in government. The same way they opposed the Corrib Pipe Line in opposition, and let it go ahead when they had their bums on ministerial seats. The Green Party have ZERO credibility. Group of opportunists and liars.

          2. Odis

            Nice to see you back. Someone said you had left the country. I think it was you.

            Thanks for the Wiki quote by the way. For a couple of seconds there, I almost forgot my loathing of the Greens.

  2. Small Wonder

    Done! I’d be far more comfortable with the existence of Irish Water with this in the constitution.

    Was anyone else’s petition in German? Just me?

    1. Sean Gut

      No no, that was just ein kleiner Mistake, nichts zu see here. Everybody sign ze petition it ist 100%ig legitimate!

  3. Niallo

    Meh, only tackles (an albeit important) part of the issue.

    At best it presents us with a choice, which do we prefer, a greedy private sector or a wastefull public sector.
    At worst, this is just crass electioneering from the same guys who were in bed with ff not so long ago.

      1. Niallo

        Well, i wouldnt have started from here thats for sure.
        But seriously thats a small question with a potentially huge answer, and it cant be just my answer.
        Not chickening out here, but i have the good sense to realise and appreciate that I have no knowledge, ability or skill in delivering a water/waste water service to the public, I only wish the clowns who are trying to railroad in this tax, (and it is a tax), would realise the same.
        There is no profit or political advantage in digging up and repairing half the pipework in the country only criticism, so to call it a water service is laughable, its a means of collecting the money the troika told us to collect, while offsetting the flak for the costs and disturbance on an “agency” plain and simple, this is probably best evidenced by IW’s “support” service which is shambolic, on purpose.seems to be modelled on 90’s eircom tech support.
        I am blue in the face pointing out the double (triple ?) taxation this represents, on a resource which, literally falls out of the sky for free.

        What would I do ? Well without having that agenda and an actual interest in delivering a “service” to the people ?
        Well, I wouldnt have created a whole new agency, I would have held local authorities responsible for all leakages and infrastructural upgrades and heavily penalised and made accountable any who didnt comply (roscommon, limerick i’m looking at you)
        I would set up a much smaller sub department to the dept of the environment with direct responsibility to oversee this and all inter authority major infrastructural upgrades.
        And as this would be part of an existing government department would make it more dificult to privatise without resorting to tub thumping measures like changing the constitution.
        Where does the money come from for all this ? Well over a couple of budgets increase motor tax (as a motorist i hate to say that) and TELL the people WHY its being increased, to cover the costs of these repairs, and upgrades.
        And lads please, before you start, those are just broad strokes,observations, like i said, this cant just be my answer.
        Now, wheres the scotch…

        1. Small Wonder

          I appreciate the reply Niallo. They’re not bad ideas. Increasing tax here, to fund over there – it’s probably something that would have worked had we not spent the last few decades running the water infrastructure in to the ground. The motor tax increase would be an extremely hard sell! I’d need popcorn for that!

          I do have to take issue with the notion that water falls out of the sky as a resource for free. It doesn’t collect itself, clean itself and pump itself in to our taps for free. Nor does it drain itself away, remove pathogens and organic pollutants from itself, before discharging itself in to a receiving body for free.

          I’d like to see water infrastructure invested in, and an incentive for water conservation in this country. It’s a crying shame that Irish Water has been the shambles it is. It should be able to deliver on these criteria for all our benefits.

          As things stand, I see the constitutional amendment above as the best that can be done with the current situation. Perhaps a future government with integrity could overhaul Irish Water. I don’t see Fine Gael changing anything about their jobs for the boys vehicle.

  4. Jess

    This would be all well and good if the state didn’t have a similarly dreadful record on operating monopolies.

  5. Tom Stewart

    Wow. The best articulated criticism of Irish Water I have seen so far. The measures proposed are absolutely what is needed. Signed.

    @Greens: please stay behind this issue – the others opposing Irish Water (AAA, Socialists, Independents, Right2Water, We Won’t Pay Campaign, etc.), while well-meaning, are doing a poor job of it so far compared to this.

    1. Am I Still on this Island?

      Yeah, man, they got a terrible turn out last time, only 75,000 plus people. The Green Party doesn’t even have 100 full-paying members. And, after Fianna Fail, they have the worst record on the economy in the history of the Irish Republic.

  6. My Daddy is bigger than Yours

    PR Stunt Fail!!

    The State is already providing for commercialisation of water through Group Schemes.

    Just when I thought the Glasraí could be any more stupid

    1. bisted

      …I remember Welsh Water and their consulting division (Hyder?) doing work for Dublin Corp on leakage…did anything ever come of that ?

  7. Bonzor

    I like this is an idea. Pretty much wherever you see water privatisation consumers are the ones who lose out.

    I don’t believe, whatever happens, that the Government will scrap IW in its entirety, so this would be a good way of stopping privatisation from ever happening.

  8. karlypants

    Privatisation is only a marginally greater threat than a wasteful Irish goverment (of any party) with the keys to the printing press. The issue is linking charges to a basic water supply, not who sends you the bill.

  9. andyourpointiswhatexactly

    I don’t think this is a suitable issue for the Constitution. Just introduce a law: no need for enshrinement in the aul Bunreacht.

    1. Small Wonder

      Legislation can be changed easily by the government. If it’s in the constitution, it can only be changed by referendum.

      1. andyourpointiswhatexactly

        That’s true, but it’s also easier to introduce. I’m just not convinced that this is a constitutional issue.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          I am.

          Water will be the most expensive and sought after resource on this wee planet in no time at all, if not considered so already, and we should do everything in our power to keep it out of greedy corrupt, corporate hands.

          Our constitution is the ONLY way to ensure this. The only way.

  10. Odis

    And the Best Quote on the Irish Gravy issue yet, comes from Fine Gael senator, Martin Conway
    [Sunday Times 26/10/14 (Stephen O’ Brien Justine McCarthy)]
    “Martin Conway a Fine Gael senator, was ridiculed last week for pronouncing that water “doesn’t fall out of the sky””.

    1. My Daddy is bigger than Yours

      way to take something out of context. It’s not really that clever – in fact unless you’re a child it’s pretty idiotic

  11. Frenchfarmer

    I’ve posted before on this.
    Here in France the Commune (i.e. Us who have a house in the commune.) own the source of the water and we pay for its delivery and the maintenance of that system which is carried out by a private company of the communes choice.
    It is our water in a very local rural area and we have meters so that we all pay according to how much we use the delivery system which belongs to us.
    We are not paying for the water because we all OWN it.
    If we wanted to we could get it cut off and go fetch it from the source in jerrycans as we would have a legal right to that water but no longer the right to use the delivery system.

    1. Spartacus

      There are many private water systems in Ireland, ranging from a single-household (private well, rainwater recovery system, spring or stream, etc.) to communal systems (known as group water schemes). What’s your point?

  12. Drogg

    Hold on firstly let me start by saying fupp you dan Boyle you are part of why the country is so fuippeded in the first place. Secondly we already fupping pay for water which Mr Boyle seems to have forgotten. This petition doesn’t go far enough as I see it water should be a constitutionaly protected right but pricing of water should be a protected interest as well cause even if we are paying for water 2 the quango that is irish water can still pilfer our pockets.

    1. Tom Stewart

      “This petition doesn’t go far enough as I see it water should be a constitutionaly protected right but pricing of water should be a protected interest as well cause even if we are paying for water 2 the quago that is irish water can still pilfer our pockets.”

      – Have a read over that. It’s practically incomprehensible.

  13. Ppads

    Infrastructure waste is an official 40% which means 50. Never underestimate the power of county councillors to stir shit. This started as an environmental issue and that is where it should end. The Greens are right.

  14. Milo

    Totally unneeded populist stunt. The electrical grid and gas grid could also potentially be privatised but they aren’t because we learnt our lesson with Eircom (surprisingly). Unless the greens also want a constitutional provision for these too – the constitution becoming hostage to every screwball conspiracy. Bad enough that the last provision means Russia and China can veto Irish Army deployment abroad.

  15. Original Cynic

    Why so scared of a “populist stunt”? Enshrine it in the Constitution – referendum on marriage equality coming up so cost-effective – or is there any particular reason WHY it should NOT be in the Constitution?

  16. JunkFace

    This is a good idea. I’m against privatizing Irish water. Our Government would probably sell it to Donald Trump or some other Mr.Burns type billionaire so that future generations could be rightly screwed. We need to stop that happening.

  17. somersetpaddy

    Surely the astronomical €180,000,000 plus change setup costs would have gone a long way to fixing the infrastructure in the first place? I’m not actually against paying for water but this whole thing has nothing to do with “safeguarding” anything but the jobs for the boys on the European gravy train.

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