This is a comment by Thomas Kiely that appeared recently on the FaceBook Page of “Awaken Ireland: A People’s Forum For Ireland’s Future”.
I thought it was well written, well researched, and extremely thought provoking and that it should have a wider audience and be re-posted in news groups, forums, etc. all across Ireland.
By Thomas Kiely
Minister Phil Hogan said on The Evening Echo, 10/06/’14, that “there is now clarity on water charges and that it’s now time to remember the benefits of reform for Cork.” The cambridge dictionary defines clarity as “the quality of being clear and easy to understand” and the word reform as “to make an improvement”.
The minister says there is likely to be a charge of €240 per household. In the interest of clarity I thought we should look at that figure. Annually, €1 billion comes out of the pockets of every man, woman and child in this state to provide for domestic water and waste water treatment. You have paid already . It’s not free. The government, through your taxes, has been managing the collection, treatment, storage and delivery of water services up until now. The responsibility for providing these services has been handed over to a new commercial state company, “Irish Water”. The government has made a commitment to the Troika to recover the cost of supplying this most fundamental human right, initially through collecting €500 million (half the cost) and going forward to full cost recovery of €1 billion.
In 2nd class we learned about division, 500 million divided by 1.35 million (number of homes in Ireland) = an average charge of €370 per annum, per household. And to be very, very clear, full cost recovery is double that, €740 per annum. Clearly, a company such as “Irish Water” will have expenses, advertising, installing radio frequency meters, hiring of consultants, exorbitant salaries, laughing yoga courses etc. These costs will need to be to be passed on to the water user also. The minister is keen to talk of clarity but not transparency. The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to “Irish Water”. You do not have a right to question any activities of that company. Commercial sensitivity is the excuse but “Irish Water” does not have any competitors. Who then are they sensitive to, perhaps you?
On top of the billion YOU have already paid through your taxes, “Irish Water” has been gifted approximately €11 billion euro in infrastructure, given €500 million from the property tax receipts, €250 million from the pension reserve fund, €42 million from the Dept. of Social Protection plus the original start up cost of €80 million. You are also expected to pay again through metered water charges. Clearly a lot of money. Not one penny is to be spent to fix the leaks. Around 40% of water is lost through leakage. We see it every day, flowing down our hills and dells. Generally, the leaks are not on private property but out on the street. Are we to believe that this first-fix-free will do anything to stop the waste, clearly not. “Irish Water” intends, after 2016, to go to the markets for the money to fix the leaks. So, after we plough all that money into this insane company and collect a back-breaking charge from the families of this state, then we borrow and pay back capital plus interest to fix the leaks.
Is this the reform he spoke about???
Minister Hogan says he wants to protect those facing affordability issues. When we consider that there are 277,000 people living in consistent poverty in Ireland today. Over 1,000,000 people are now suffering deprivation and 32% of the population are at-risk-of-poverty . Clearly, there are affordability issues, over a million of them. Those in receipt of the households benefits package can get €100 euro off their yearly bill and it will be possible to apply for an “exceptional needs payment” from a welfare officer. Just as the minister likes clarity, i’m sure welfare officers do too, and details. The choice for people vulnerable people with issues like bowel/bladder problems and poorer menstruating women will be to go and clearly give a detailed explanation as to why they needed those extra flushes and unsanctioned showers and hope they get a favorable response. For the 400,000 people are on the live register, there will be absolutely no help whatsoever for these people as the government feels this would be a disincentive to work. Is this reform?
Speaking of work, in his article Minister Hogan clearly wants us to know about all the temporary call-center jobs being created. He neglected to mention that “Irish Water” intends to lay off 1200 permanent workers. When the people of Ireland are forced to pay charges for water and sanitation we will see another €1 billion diverted out of our pockets. The knock-on effect of this will be job losses, the barman/woman, the local shopkeeper, the butcher and baker and candlestick maker will pay, they will pay with their jobs. Thousands of jobs will be lost in the creation of this monstrous cash-guzzling quango. Presumably, the billion already paid through taxes will be diverted to pay the gambling debts of bankers and developers.
The Water Services Act establishes “Irish Water” as a commercial, state, revenue producing company. A company without competition, a monopoly. Under European Law, it is illegal for a country to operate a commercial state monopoly. The market must be liberalised. We will be forced to privatise our water services. Where water has been privatised, prices has risen, investment has not taken place, water quality has diminished and vast sums of money have flowed into the pockets of private operators and their shareholders. The privatisation of water always fails the people. The government is quick to assure us that they have no intention of privatising water. But but but, the Dept. Of the Environment is telling us we must get a new water treatment plant in Cork and it must be built, owned and operated by a private company. If it walks like a duck… All across Europe, governments have been forced to remunicipalise water because the privatisation agenda clearly does not work. Is this the reform the minister talks about, to take a proven failed system and implement it in ireland.
Poverty should never be seen as a conservation measure. Poverty is when we are deprived, deprived of food, deprived of shelter, deprived of heat, deprived of participation in society. Poverty is not a choice. Are we now to suffer water poverty???? Or should we be considered conservationist? The most vulnerable in society are to be rationed, rationed flushes, rationed hygiene, rationed in how we prepare our food and rationed in how we bathe our babies. It’s not all doom and gloom, the government has committed to tax cuts for higher earners, this will nullify any burden from water charges so it won’t affect them. You are to carry the burden for them!
In July 2010, the United Nations declared water and sanitation a Human Right. Water charges will disproportionately affect women, the sick, the elderly, the poor and the working poor. Does the Irish government think that only the rich have rights? Do you??
The ministers idea of clarity and reform appears to erroneous. We have paid, every child in a sweetshop is paying for public services, every citizen who collects a pay-slip is paying, every pensioner who pays their ESB bill and everyone who uses luxuries like loo paper pays VAT, we have paid. We will clearly not be paying again.
Water is a human right, water is a common good. It is the source of all life, nothing exists without it. It is too important to ever be handed over to a company where money is the bottom line.