The debate about Irish Water has gone on for far too long and politicians on all sides should end it now.
As a City Councillor, 2003-2014, I am acutely aware of the critical importance of water for Dublin where we use 99% of all available treated water. I’m environmentally conscious and believe climate change is the biggest threat.
However, from 2013 as leader of Fianna Fáil on Dublin City Council I opposed Fine Gaels plan for Irish Water because I believed and still believe Fine Gael’s strategy was wrong.
Almost half, 49%, of all available treated water in Ireland is lost every day through network leakages. Most of these leaks can be detected by district meters.
Fine Gaels plan mistakenly prioritised installation of domestic water meters at great cost ahead of investment in fixing leaks in the network. To hit homeowners with charges when the network itself is leaking like a sieve was wrong.
Most modern international cities have no more than 10-20% excess water capacity available for use. If half the leaks in the water network were fixed we would yield enough extra water to exceed international standards.
Fine Gael’s failed water plan alienated a significant majority of people from the critical issue of water supply, security and conservation.
Irish homeowners have relatively low water usage in comparison to other countries so to prioritise charging homeowners for modest usage was to penalise them for good behaviour.
Fine Gaels failed plan wasted almost €1billion on domestic meters, consultant’s fees and conservation grants designed to do anything but encourage conservation.
There have been NO savings. The same Local Authorities that were delivering water services prior to the establishment of Irish Water are still doing it – just under a Service Level Agreement for Irish Water. Taxpayers are rightly annoyed that they are expected to fund the bonus driven Irish Water Company and all the extra costs that go along with it.
That €1billion squandered by Fine Gael on Irish Water could and should have been spent on housing, health or education.
In the last general election, Fianna Fáil campaigned to abolish Irish water and abolish water charges. Fianna Fáil didn’t win the election but have worked responsibly to deliver on its promise.
Fianna Fáil has worked to ensure water services remain in public ownership, homeowners don’t pay water charges for corporate waste, no more public funds are wasted on water meters, the network is repaired and any abuse of our water supply is tackled.
In abolishing water charges Fianna Fáil is being true to its election promise, is acting based on legal advice and in accordance with the will of the majority of the people.
Fianna Fáil’s policy is legally, environmentally and financially sound as verified by independent advice to the Oireachtas Committe.
Fine Gael should realise it did not win the last General Election and accept that most people voted for TD’s mandated to abolish water charges.
Fine Gael should not renege on its “confidence & supply” agreement with Fianna Fáil. They should keep their word and legislate in accordance with the report from the all-party committee on the future funding for water. They should abolish water charges and get on with dealing with other critical issues like crises in health, housing, policing and Bexit.