[From top: Irish Water logo and Eamon Ryan, of the Green Party, on Tonight with Vincent Browne last night]
In early 2011, a study on the setting up of Irish Water – carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers and McCann Fitzgerald – was to be delivered to the Department of the Environment by the following September, and that Bord na Móna had expressed an interest in taking on the role.
In April 2012, the tender for Irish Water was awarded to Bord Gáis. Environment minister Phil Hogan said ‘the outside assessors..had made the decision based on a long list of criteria’.
On last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3, former minister Eamon Ryan – who was joined on the panel by Harry McGee, political correspondent with the Irish Times; Joan Collins, TD from the United Left Alliance and Damien English, TD from Fine Gael – brought up the PWC report and claimed Fine Gael and Labour changed the report’s terms of reference without any public announcement.
Eamon Ryan: “You [to Damien English] said there that you looked at all the options, you didn’t. You came in to Government there was a PricewaterhouseCoopers study looking at various different ways you could do it without any public announcement, the terms of reference of that study was changed because, as I said, there was a deal done already be Fine Gael and Labour into how it would be done.
“It would be given to Bord Gáis, it would be done through the bond markets and so you came in with a fixed view as to how it was going to be done. You didn’t think through how are we going to deliver the meters before we go to the public and you lost the public confidence because of that approach and they don’t see any savings coming and that’s the problem, it’s not in my mind the principle that we have to try and cut back our wasteful use of water, and yes a charge is part of that, but you’ve lost the public because you don’t have the metering, you don’t have savings and you don’t have, and you didn’t even look at different options, how it might be delivered and that’s why it’s going wrong.“
Earlier in the show, Mr McGee summed up the immediate problems that Labour face due to the developing crisis facing Irish Water.
Harry McGee: “There are a couple, kind of issues that are pertinent, I mean, at the moment, it has been labelled as a charge but it’s looking suspiciously like a tax because the water metering programme has just started and they don’t have a snowball’s hope in hell of having 1.1million homes water metered within the next two and a half years, so people are going to have to be charged on the basis of an assessed charge and that’s innately unfair. And the second difficulty is that there is a wedge between Fine Gael and Labour in Government in relation to the charge. One of the things that’s coming back to haunt the Labour party is that famous Tesco ad, from before the election where they warned people of the prospect of Fine Gael in Government. And one of the things they warned about was that water charges would be €239 per annum. And, geronimo, what do we have but a Fine Gael proposal coming forward with €240 per annum. The difficulty, from a Labour perspective, with the Fine Gael proposal is that they want to make a few exceptions, they want most households in the country to pay an average of €240 while the Labour party want us to make as many exceptions as possible. There is a line in the commitment, in the Programme for Government that there be a generous water allowance and both parties have to find that very differently and it’s become critical for the Labour party, what the Tánaiste said today was quite telling. Fine Gael were saying that they would give us clarity in relation to the pricing structure within ten days and now we hear the Labour party’s saying ‘well, the most important thing is to get it right’. ”
Vincent Browne: “Enda Kenny made it absolutely clear….”
McGee: “And I guarantee they won’t get it right until after the 23rd [of May, when the local and European elections take place].
Vincent Browne: “Enda Kenny has made it absolutely clear, we will be told before the local and European elections what the system is, what the charges are going to be. He’s made that clear in the Dáil last week.”
McGee: “He did but Eamon Gilmore equally made it clear that might not necessarily might be the case. He said that Labour would not be beholden to a Fine Gael timetable.”
Watch back in full here
Previously: Thicker Than Uisce