New water charges protest announced for next month

The government committee on the funding of Irish water services is due to give its final recommendations six days after the planned demonstration

New water charges protest announced for next month

Brendan Ogle and Sinn Fein Jonathan O Brien TD at a Right 2 Water press conference in Buswells Hotel today, 09-03-2017. Image: Sam Boal / RollingNews

Updated 13:45

A new national water protest has been announced for Saturday the 8th of April.

The Right2Water group are aiming to gather tens of thousands of people in the capital for the event next month, in what they are calling a “final push” towards scrapping water charges for good.

The group’s spokesman Brendan Ogle claimed the government is not concerned about water conservation – and suggested any water charge would be the first step towards privatising water services.

“Could we stop pretending that it is not being privatised all over the world and that we are somehow different, somehow divorced from that,” he said.

“Could we stop pretending that water as an asset class in the word today is not the most profitable asset class there is apart from financial instruments.

“Could we stop pretending that we have households with swimming pools hidden in their attics.”

The Oireachtas committee on the future funding of water has been given until April 14th to deliver its final report before it goes to the vote in the Dáil.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the committee signed off on the contents of the first four chapters of their report.

Referendum on Irish Water ownership

The committee members unanimously agreed to recommend a referendum to enshrine the public ownership of Irish Water into the constitution - a decision that was welcomed by the Right2Water group.

"I would like to reiterate our view that charges should be abolished in their entirety and that water metering, which is an enabler of charges, should also be abolished and the associated funds invested instead in our antiquated and leaking water infrastructure”, said Mr Ogle.

The main bone of contention between the main political parties remains the issue of excess usage.

Fianna Fáil has opposed any system of charges for excess water usage – although the party would be happy to fine people who waste water.

Fine Gael has called for a system of charges for excess usage and warned that the complete abolition of charges would breach EU regulations and leave Ireland open to heavy fines

Under the latest proposals, a levy would be introduced on those who use more water than is deemed necessary - although there will be a six-month grace period to allow those who are over-using to limit their consumption or prove it is not their fault.

Fine Gael will not commit to the compromise until the committee has considered legal advice from the Oireachtas parliamentary legal adviser.

Water meters

The committee has also thus far failed to reach agreement on a Fine Gael proposal requiring all new builds to include a water meter.

The party said meters play a significant role in determining water usage and identifying leaks adding that it is far easier to install them while new pipes are being laid rather than retrospectively.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have both called for a complete end to the water metering programme – and the Anti Austerity Alliance have also opposed the measure. 

Meanwhile, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report released this morning revealed that the quality of private water supplies is consistently poorer than public facilities

The report found that over 5,400 people on independent supplies were affected by boil water notices in 2015. 

The EPA said more work is needed to ensure that people on private lines have access to clean drinking water.