Last Monday night this column was in Dundalk at a Right2Water public meeting. There was a good turnout and a lively discussion. Local Councillors and former Executive Minster Conor Murphy joined us. On Thursday night we repeated the process in Drogheda.
A few Saturdays
before this a huge crowd of citizens poured on to the streets of Dublin to
protest at the Governments introduction of additional water charges. Everyone,
including the organisers were surprised at the turnout which was estimated to be
at least fifty thousand strong.
Six years of austerity and the
Governments arrogance in setting up Uisce Eireann - a semi state company
operating like a private company which claimed over fifty million euros of
taxpayers money for consultants and huge bonuses for its management - was the
trigger for widespread public opposition.
Water is clearly a precious
resource that must be protected and maintained to the highest standards. Clean
water should be a right. In some counties the water is undrinkable.
dwellers pay for their water anyway through group water schemes or the digging
and maintenance of their own wells.
Successive governments have never provided
services for these folk. In fact this government and its Fianna Fáil predecessor
are stripping services from rural areas. Post offices, schools, Gardai, public
transport, A&E units, public transport. All have been cut. In total
contradiction of election promises. Charges for septic tanks, the family home
have been imposed on top of a range of other stealth charges.
water charges came from Fianna Fáil in government. Now in Opposition they are
The charges being implemented by the government are in
essence just a cover for a new tax. It is clear from the latest Exchequer
figures that there is enough additional money available to offset the cost of
Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget proposals identified how
this could be done. Yet the government continues to press ahead with water
charges while lowering tax on the higher earners.
Sinn Féin, and many
others, is campaigning against the water charges. We have committed if we get
into government that we will reverse the charges. Just as we did in the
Executive under Conor Murphy's leadership.
But those families who cannot
pay cannot wait until then. This is a charge too far. Many many citizens cannot
afford it. So this government must be turned on this issue.
Gael/Labour government is not immune to public pressure.
reacted with some water charge concessions in the recent budget. These were in
the wake of the by-election results where anti-Austerity candidates trounced
Government candidates, and to the scale of the protests in Dublin.
are also rattled at the ongoing debacles emerging at Irish Water.
charges can be beaten on the streets, in our communities and through the ballot
Sinn Féin fully supports the Right2Water campaign and believe that
this should be built in every community throughout the State.
important that all groups opposed to water charges work together to defeat them.
United we must stand.
In the North, Sinn Féin Minister Conor Murphy was
responsible for stopping the introduction of domestic Water Charges and the
privatisation of water services .
We will end them in the South
Sinn Féin will deliver on our commitments.
We will not enter
into a government that maintains water charges or the local property
The Fine Gael/Labour Government need also to stop the roll-out of
water metering and redirect the €539m loan finance from the National Pension
Reserve Fund towards fixing the massive leakage problems and interruptions to
The Government also needs to recognise that Uisce Eireann is not
fit for purpose. It is not accountable to the Oireachtas and the citizens of
Uisce Eireann has become synonymous with everything that is
wrong with the Fine Gael Labour Government - cronyism, political manipulation of
State boards, threats to citizens and ever mounting taxes on struggling
From the outset, Uisce Eireann has been mired in scandal. The
manner in which this company was established, how it has been managed, and the
unfair imposition of water charges has been chaotic and farcical.
this week, it emerged that Irish Water planned to hit struggling families with a
hugely expensive call-out charge of €180 to repair leaking pipes. I raised this
directly with the Taoiseach but he said he knows nothing about the figure. Such
Senior management at Irish Water are paid hugely exorbitant
salaries. And last weekend we learned that these same executives are in line for
bonus payments despite the very obvious management failings.
Taoiseach told me in the Dáil on 7th October that no bonuses would be paid. Such
The latest noises from government appear designed to scapegoat
the board and senior management team at Uisce Eireann. But this fiasco was the
creation of the government. The Minister who introduced has condemned the way it
is operating. That was after he was sacked by Mr Kenny.
Uisce Eireann as
an entity is toxic. It cannot be left with responsibility for the delivery of
water services. It must be fundamentally and radically reformed so that it acts
in the interests of citizens.
Citizens and communities are organising and
mobilising in protest and opposition to these water charges through the
Right2Water public campaign.
Next Saturday, November 1st, there will be
demonstrations in towns across all twenty six counties. The Taoiseach should
listen to what citizens are saying. He is already out of his depth. His
governments disastrous handling of the water issue may just be the issue that