Raising money from water charges was a condition imposed on Ireland by the EU-IMF-ECB troika as part of the country’s bailout in 2010 after the economic crisis. The introduction of such charges as an austerity measure was very unpopular. It led to nationwide protests, the prevention of contractors installing water meters and the boycott of paying charges. The scale of opposition made it obvious that these charges could not be implemented. The Oireachtas committee report into the whole issue of water-charges has recommended scrapping the charges and allowing refunds. The report is due for publication on Tuesday and the Dáil must vote on the committee’s recommendations within one month. It was in support of the Oireachtas Committee recommendations that brought thousands of demonstrators back out on to the streets of Dublin on Saturday 8th April. Sinn Féin’s Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald told the crowd that the Government should acknowledge they lost on the issue of water charges and “we won”. Meanwhile Fine Gael, in a desperate attempt to save face, are still trying to defend the failed water-charge policy. However, as Saturday’s demonstration shows opposition to water-charges remains strong and there will be a fight to prevent Fine Gael is trying to get water-charges implemented by another name. The recommendations of the committee need to be adopted. If Fine Gael dig in their heals it could well result in another Irish General Election being called.
To add fuel to the fire it has now emerged in a newspaper report in the Irish Independent that 675 employees of Irish Water received bonus payments of an average of almost €5,000 last month. This is the body created in 2015, with the responsibility for providing water and wastewater services. The intention being that the company would be funded through direct billing. Ongoing concerns about the performance of the company including the scale of non-payment issues have led to mounting calls for the organisation to be dissolved.
Article submitted by Eibhlin O’Neill. Issued by Alastair Kneale, the Celtic League 11/04/17.