The Efficient Deficiencies Of Irish Water



From top: John Tierney, Irish Water managing directo; Dr Julien Mercille


In another colossal waste of money Irish Water will go door to door to find out what they already know.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

Our domestic troika (Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour), just like the European troika (European Central Bank, European Commission and the IMF), always claim that they are in favour of efficiency and a lean public sector while being tough on waste in government.

Last week, events around Irish Water revealed again this not to be the case.

As many as 54% of households still have not paid their water charges, which means a rather low 46% payment rate.

Newly released documents obtained by the Sunday Times show that Irish Water had originally estimated that only 20% of customers would not pay their bills — in other words, boycott has been nearly three times larger than expected. It was also predicted that by now, 1.7 million people would have registered, but in fact there are only 1.36 million who have done so.

Another surprise of the released documents is the relative effectiveness of the protests. John Tierney, Irish Water managing director, stated that they have slowed down the rate at which water meters are installed by as many as 1,000 per month.

Apparently taken aback by those unforeseen events, it has now emerged that Irish Water is undertaking private research to find out why so many people are refusing to pay their water charges, as reported by the Sunday Business Post yesterday. It has hired a private company called Behaviour and Attitudes to conduct a study.

The firm is based in Dublin and specialises in market research. It will reportedly go from door to door in the country to ask people if they have paid their bills, and if not, why not? They will be asked if they agree with the statement, “Why should I pay the bill when everyone else isn’t paying?” and if they believe that “water should be free”.

Irish Water has so far refused to reveal how much the study had cost, but it is obviously a waste, since we already know the answer. It is not difficult to understand that people protest the water charges because they are tired of austerity measures.

Also, Rory Hearne at NUI-Maynooth conducted an excellent study of the motivations of water charge protesters. It found that the main reasons for protesting were that “austerity has gone too far” (60% of respondents), to “stop the future privatisation of water” (59%) and to “abolish water charges” (57%).

Why not simply look at this report rather than spend more money on yet another study that will only confirm the obvious? Maybe Irish Water wants more precise information on why people boycott in an attempt to build their next marketing/propaganda campaign to try to convince people to pay?

A few months ago, it spent €650,000 on an advertising campaign to do just that, or in more polite language from its marketing plan, to generate “credible mass acceptance that there is a need to pay for water”.

The advertising agency Rothco created a short clip that was played on the radio, television, movie theatres and elsewhere for eight weeks. The 60-second clip was entitled “The Story of Water from Cloud to Glass” and can be watched here.

On Irish Water’s website, there is what seems to be a follow-up clip entitled “The Story of Water from Drain to Sea”, which can be watched here. Who knows how much it cost?

Another waste is the ongoing prosecution of water charge protesters by the State, through which 27 people will be instructed to appear before the courts, including Paul Murphy TD.

In this legal operation, statements were taken from 100 Garda members, while countless officers have of course been used everywhere in the country to police communities opposed to the installation of water meters. I am not aware of an estimate of the costs of those operations, but the money wasted could have been spent on homelessness, welcoming refugees, reducing waiting lines in hospitals, etc.

Efficiency principles as commonly understood have thus been thrown out of the window. The only way the above can be conceived as efficient is from the viewpoint of those in power. It is efficient to spend taxpayers’ money on trying to put in jail those who protest, because that might enable the domestic and European troikas to achieve their goals. That means it might be efficient for elites, but not for anyone else.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at UCD. His book Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Crisis: Europe’s Treasure Ireland is out. Twitter: @JulienMercille

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40 thoughts on “The Efficient Deficiencies Of Irish Water

  1. Frilly Keane

    What ever it costs to keep the show on the road
    Until it’s flogged off
    What ever it costs

    Now how’s that for efficiency?
    Less than 30 words

    1. Sido

      I would have put a tenner on Julien telling us what a great guy Jezza Corbyn was today.
      Whatever, here’s one he baked earlier.

      1. J

        Yep, was hoping for a rousing rendition of “The Red Flag” to wake me up on a Monday morning. Jonotti on the triangle. Disappointed.

        1. dave

          You and your boss certainly seem to think so! Don’t worry you’ll be getting a nice reality check within the next 9 months!

    1. meadowlark

      Ah now Jonotti. We all know you’re secretly Mercille in disguise. Its ok if you don’t want to get commenting on your own article.

    2. Denito

      Another great sign of this guy’s academic prowess is his line that IW shouldn’t bother doing a door-to-door survey when former SWP/PBP Dáil candidate Rory Hearne has already done a survey of water protesters as if water protesters are some random cross-section of society.

  2. Kennysmells

    I havent paid my bill; John Tierneys suit looks cheap and his tie looks like something from the bargain bin.

  3. Mr S

    Desperate, predictable and pretty lazy stuff from Julian.

    I had Rory Hearne and Irish Water in Mercille Bingo. Disappointed he didn’t mention Geeece as I would have had a full house.

    I’m sure Catherine Murphy’s research assistant will fill in those gaps in her article tomorrow.

  4. ahjayzis

    If Dr. Smoulder really wants his words to go farther and change more minds, he should consider a topless / speedo-clad photo to accompany them. This clothes business is a relic from old media and establishment body shaming. Be the change Julien.

  5. TheDude

    Just more jobs for the boys using taxpayers money. Nothing to see here, these are not the droids you are looking for, move along

  6. Owen C

    “Also, Rory Hearne at NUI-Maynooth conducted an excellent study of the motivations of water charge protesters. It found that the main reasons for protesting were that “austerity has gone too far” (60% of respondents), to “stop the future privatisation of water” (59%) and to “abolish water charges” (57%).”

    I don’t think Irish Water are interested in why people are protesting (to come out and protest generally suggests a fairly firm opinion on the subject. To not sign up come involved a mix of apathy/concern/laziness as much as anything else). They are interested in why people are not paying/signing up. So its an entirely different survey/report they are putting together. Of course Julien misses this, as he so often does.

  7. doncolleone

    outsource unpaid bills collection to a private firm, the one with the burly serbian lads, that should sort it pretty quickly.

  8. Disasta

    Can someone clarify for me, the money that was spent on water previously, what will happen that when Irish Water is an entity that completely pays for and delivers the service alone? Those moneys previously used will go where?

    1. robswan

      Uhhh. Given we borrow billions every year to pay for current expenditure the simple answer is that we either stop borrowing it (and putting it on our children’s shoulders) OR we could increase spending on health care or education…

  9. newsjustin

    Flawed logic by Dr Mercille. The views of water protesters are unlikely to be representative of the views of Mr and Mrs Murphy who haven’t paid the bill…for a variety of reasons….but wouldn’t be bothered going on a demo.

    1. Andy

      Hearne’s “Excellent study” can be found here.

      32% of respondents said they’d vote PBP/AAA which is clearly at odds with the wider public according to nearly every opinion poll going.
      This however doesn’t stop Hearne claiming the protests represent the people of Ireland.
      The “Excellent study” draws some hilarious conclusions about Irish society as a whole.
      It is nothing short of a propaganda took for the hard left of which Hearne is a part of.
      If you’re interested in Mercille Bingo you’ll not be disappointed – DOB, Elites, Greece, TTIP, tax the rich, neoliberalism, the proclamation/Connolly.

      1. Andy

        Can’t insert the link for some reason. It’s up on the Maynooth website.
        Titled [The Irish water war, austerity and the ‘Risen people’]

  10. Kevin M

    Well said Dr.Mercille.
    Irish Water has 11 in house PR staff and are using 5 outside PR companies in continued massive waste of taxpayers money. Now they have hired another consultancy to see why these 16 – SIXTEEN – entities have failed to turn the tide of the non payment campaign and the larger anti water charge/anti Irish water movement.

    ” Sources in the public relations industry said that standard fees for consultation ranging from €1,000 to €1,500 a day, were not uncommon ”

    Any continued use of taxpayers money to turn the majority to payment is a waste of time and resources. It is great to hear that the constant vigilance of people in their communities is stopping the installation of these meters. Meters Bord Gáis didn’t want and are obsolete.

    If Irish Water was a private entity, it would be in the middle of a wind down. It has failed, spectacularly. It’s time to abolish the charges and the quango, return the work to the councils with better funding and a longer term investment plan, hold the referendum on ownership of the water supply and hope that the hundreds of thousands who protested across the country, forgive the government and the parties involved.

  11. rugbylane

    Happy to pay for water through progressive taxation. Definitely not paying through regressive metered bills. most definitely going to help fatten the pig for privatisation. Thank you and goodnight.

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