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Green Party Communications | 18.04.2012 | Back to News | News Archive
Greens fear Irish Water Company will be set up for privatisation
and question who will own the water meters after they are installed?
Cllr Malcolm Noonan, Green Party Environment and Local Government spokesperson said today: "The Green Party, while supportive in principle of domestic water metering, is wholly opposed to approach that the Government is taking. In a submission to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Party stated its outright opposition to the establishment of Irish Water. We believe this is a de facto first step towards the privatisation of our most precious public resource. It will ultimately lead to a sub-standard water network, increased costs to consumers and no accountability, as we have seen in the UK."
Cllr Noonan sounded a warning to the Labour Party not to be taken in by Fine Gael's NewERA agenda of privatisation, stating that it runs contrary to their core principles. "While the parties of the left are focusing on the principle of paying for water, they are missing the point here with the most worrying aspect of Minister Hogan's proposals – the very establishment of Irish Water itself. The only way we can now protect against a future privatisation is to hold a referendum to introduce a Constitutional provision which insures that water is protected as a public asset. As the Government hands over all our water infrastructure to this new company, we want to know whether they will provide that basic protection."
"The Green Party is in favour of a regional authority approach to water management similar to the current River Basin district system, where one local authority acts as a lead agency to the others for water infrastructure management. This would have two significant benefits. Firstly, provision of water services would remain in public hands and in the remit of local and regional authorities, where there would be political accountability as to how our money is spent. Secondly, it would have ensured that private utility companies cannot bid for the provision of the service in an open competitive market against Irish Water. Such a structure would not require a public utility model, just cooperation between regional authorities."
"Minister Hogan seems to have no vision for the development of regional and local government. It makes sense to plan our water resources on a regional basis, where expertise and skills have been built up over decades. That local knowledge and experience will be lost when Irish Water takes yet another function from an already demoralised local government system. We seem to have learnt nothing from the mistakes that were made in the establishment of that other new national service provider, the HSE."
Commenting on Government plans to charge households for the meter infrastructure, Cllr Noonan pointed out that the Green Party were consistent in opposing such flat rate charges but supported a system of usage charges which would only be levied on amounts used above a basic free allocation. "Once again, the Government seems to have got the introduction of essential new charges badly wrong. There was no reference to consumers paying for meters over a phased timeframe in the 'Position Paper on Reform of the Water Sector' launched in January 2012 *. One of the many questions that now arise is whether the meters will become the property of new Irish Water company or of the householder who pays for them. It would be a bitter twist if the meter became an asset of the company where it would be wrapped up with the other state assets that the Government is now preparing for sale," he concluded.
Note to Editors
* 'Reform of the Water Sector in
Ireland' – Position Paper, January 2012 – DoECLG 2012 http://www.environ.ie/en/