The recent wavering on the issue of water charges by Fianna Fáil and the speculation on the future of Irish Water must be welcomed as the inevitable outcome of the unpopularity of Irish Water and the enormous popular movement, which has grown around the Right2Water campaign. But the campaign must continue until our key goals are reached, that is the abolition of water charges and a referendum to enshrine public ownership in our constitution to ensure water services can never be privatised. If refunds are paid well and good, but the issue of refunds is a diversion from what is an important victory, the priority now is to ensure that people are no longer bullied into paying twice for their water. And those people who felt they had no option but to pay will have one less bill to worry about now.
People were not fooled by the spin that surrounded the establishment of Irish Water. It was clear from the start that it was a money-making operation, that would not benefit our water infrastructure, but would create opportunities for private investors to make fortunes out of a vital natural resource which the tax payer has invested in for generations. A resource, that is so important to our lives, our health and well being, that people were compelled to defend it and not allow it to be treated as a commodity or let it fall into the hands of private corporations.
During the chaotic establishment of Irish Water, we were subjected to much spin and untruths. We were told this was about conservation, but that was a lie; since 2008 investment in water has fallen by 65% and while Irish Water could afford to spend €20,000 per day on consultants it could not afford to fix the leaks or replace the rotten pipes.
We were told that it would teach us not to waste water yet house-holders use only 16% of all water and were targeted to pay 78% of the costs.
The real agenda of installing water meters was clear, it was preparing the way for privatisation. This was reality was met with fierce resistance from communities across the country who saw it for what it was.
The media are now engaged in a scaremongering campaign, speculating on the potential cost of abolishing Irish Water. Let us just remember that the money they hoped to squeeze from us through water charges last year was €271 million, in the same year the FG/Lab budget gave the top 17% a tax cut of over €400 million. There is no need whatsoever for the taxpayer to foot the bill to pay off executives who have presided over a fiasco at Irish Water. And no reason why the 4,000 workers involved, employed by our councils, cannot continue their duties as council employees.
The battle is not won yet, we need to see the abolition of Irish Water and it replaced with a public water and sanitation board funded through progressive central taxation. We need to push for the Right2Water campaigns’ demand for a referendum to enshrine public ownership of our water supply in the Constitution.