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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 17, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

    Watering it down?

    Harry McGee

    A little later this afternoon the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan will give a briefing on the status of the Government’s plans to introduce water charges. It’s expected he’ll give a timetable for rolling out the project (yep the predictable phrase); an indication of how the new utility company Irish Water will shape up, and reconfirm that there won’t be any upfront charges for punters.


    (*UPDATE 16.50: Phil Hogan held a press conference this afternoon in which he confirmed that Bord Gais Eireann were the successful tenderer to rund the new water utility company. He also confirmed that there will be no upfront charge for water metering but that it will be paid by way of a standing charge of approximately €39 over a period of 20 years. He also said that the vast majority of meters will be installed by the end of 2014 and that the first bills will begin to be paid at that time, or possibly in early 2015. Also strenuously denied that there had been any confusion last weekend, even though obviously there was!)

    The water charge will be the second new charge the Government has introduced and – following the less-than-glorious introduction of the household charge – it’s really going to have to get it right.
    Bringing in the two new taxes wasn’t really the Government’s own call. They formed part of the bailout deal agreed by the previous government with the troika. As a point of face, each of the Coalition parties opposed one each of these new charges but both have had to accept them.
    The two taxes should have been there for a long long time. The tax base needed to be broadened beyond income and VAT and unpredictable transactional taxes to include assets and utilities (water is a utility just as gas and electricity are).
    When you include waiver and exclusion clauses into the system, both can tend towards fairness (though with property it’s always very difficult to get the balance right). For example, those with trophy homes pay more than those with humble terraced cottages. And those who insist on plonking a swimming pool in their backyards should pay more than those who are thrifty with their water usage.
    Given the preciousness of water as a resource, there are also sound environmental reasons for introducing a water charge. Those who oppose it say that we should fix the leaks. Yes, we should. But at the same time that does not address the issue of wasteful individual usage. The introduction of pay as you use waste services have though people the value of recycling and reduced the amounts of waste being sent to landfills. Similarly, as we have seen with metered group water schemes around the country, charging for water actually contributes to a decrease in usage.
    Sure, there is the other argument that people are already swamped with taxes and can’t really take any more. And that they already pay for water through central taxes (which they do).
    Part of the Government strategy will have to be telling people that this is not merely another revenue-gathering exercise but that the money will be pumped back (literally?) into water services.
    It’s going to be a tough argument to make.
    I myself suspect that people won’t oppose water metering as long as it’s not a flat charge (which would be unfair). The Government is aware by now that any upfront charges will not be tolerated so they will ensure that the costs of installing and maintaining meters will be spread over a long period of time.
    It’s main difficulty will be getting the whole project finished by the end of next year. That’s 1 million water meters. As RTE’s Feargal Keane pointed out yesterday that will involve installing 4,000 meters on every working day. That’s not going to happen.
    Yet, the Troika has insisted that charges begin from early 2014. What’s going to have to happen is that a fair amount of houses will not have meters and will be billed on an ‘assessed’ charge. If there are too many households being charged on this basis, or if they even suspect that they are being charged ‘over the odds’, it’s going to spell big political trouble for the Coalition.
    Already, it’s become an issue. And Phil Hogan will have to give a great deal of clarity on the issue later today, if it’s not going to do the kind of political damage to him that was inflicted by the household charge.
    I will update later.

    • Denis Co. Clare says:

      You have to love the way this undemocratic government is using their fast dwindling majority in an attempt to introduce now what we will not accept when that majority collapses, which looks like being sooner rather than later.

      There is no way the household tax or the water tax can be introduced as they are without first the resolution of the legal questions over the governments authority to bail out the banks because thsi is where the money is going.

      The money is being withdrawn from the present allocation – Council Services and Water – in order to pay teh banks and the taxpayer is being forced to make up the shortfall.

      Until this issue is resolved i will not be paying either and once more I am outraged at the contempt shown by this government for the electorate. We were fooled but we are not gullible enough to believe the nonsense behind the rationale for the introduction of these charges. We are also not fooled by the privileges of the TD’s as everyone else is supposed to wear the hair shirts.

      I think it will take a revolution to reverse this ship and follow the lead of Iceland who fired their government and told the banks to get a life.

      It started well but EU has proven it is no friend of ours and now it is time to get out of the Eurozone, get out of the EU and get back to exercising sovereignty over our own territory.

    • Michael says:

      We can defeat this tax if we organize a campaign similar to the opposition to the household charge. The dominant classes are completely out of touch as to how much the average person is struggling to survive.As the crisis within capitalism deepens, more and more people will realize that the policies of the principle political parties offer no real solutions. The only alternative will be to organize within our local communities and fight back against a system that increases poverty and unemployment to pay of the bondholders. The biggest mistake people make about power is believing that they do not have any .
      Join the campaign against the household tax and water charges ..

    • arb says:

      Whatever happened to Aqua Libra……… :)

    • JOD says:

      Fact is I’ve an idea of what it takes to make water fit for human consumption because as an amateur fishkeeper (poseurs would say aguarist) it’s my happy lot to spend quite a bit of personal time keeping only 300 litres of H2O and Everything Else that’s in it fit for fish to live in and mostly that involves undoing what the water authorities have done to the water to make it unfit for fish to live in and fit – largely – for human consumption. Finally got an old tank I brought back from my old office in PRC setup and running about 9 months now. Have about 50 tropical fish in it. Watch the tank far more than the telly and find it most conducive to relieving stress the telly only adds to hugely. Anyway the point is along the way I’ve learned quite a bit about water quality and the various ingredients in that and the various processes and treatments natural and artificial that are needed so as to replace various missing natural elements of the water cycle. Water on earth is nearly never pure, except when it evaporates, or is filtered through reverse osmosis which strips absolutely all minerals salts buffers and so forth out of it and isn’t fit for much really except setting up saltwater tanks and various eccentric treatments purporting to be good for human health so mostly water on earth is pretty unfit for human consumption for the most part and unfit for fish to live in frighteningly frequently. It all costs money to render it otherwise and to keep what is fit from joining the rest of it in a general state of unfitness i.e. pollution, unavailability, PH, GH/KH, too much ammonia, nitrite, chloramine, heavy metals and so forth and I know it costs me about 30 euro a month just to render 300 litres of it, with a 20% waterchange once a week, fit for fish to live in. And we don’t have to actually live in our own toilets anymore as fish do but it’s been a surprisingly short while only since we stopped having to in this country, effectively. My granny had an outside privy that was fed from a roof tank that led to a gravity feed cistern and the toilet seat wasn’t much more than a plank if you moved the wrong way got splinters in yer arse and varous pages of the Cork Examiner were cutup neatly and there convenient on a piece of string hanging from the white roughly plastered rubble stone wall. I remember that, as a child visiting her in Cork and it was the coldest feckin place imaginable on a summer’s night you coldn’t wait to get out of it. She never heard of Andrex, the water that came out of her tap was good Lee water from the reservoir alright but that was for the drinking and the rain was for the loo. Nowadays we have fancy bathrooms and power showers and huge jacuzzi (well some do) and it’s all basically Evian (by comparison to what Granny was getting) spurting in all directions in our wet rooms. And all over our lawns and cars of a Sinday and our clothes are washed in Volvic. Well not quite but again by comparison. That’s a disgrace really, in light of all the above. I agree, people should pay for what they use and I was always under the impression that my general income tax together with all the stealth taxes paid for my water, inter alia. Now apparently despite huge increases in my general income tax (and please let’s not be Jesuitical about ‘taxes’ and ‘levies’ and ‘duties’ and ‘charges’ they’re all tax all come out of the sweat of our faces and reduce the bread we can eat thereby) I have to be charged yet more for water 300 liter of which I spend 30 euro more of my personal hard-earned just to return it to and keep it in the condition it was in, or perhaps a little more, than before the water authority got it and started treating it to make it fit for people to drink. Why is this? What are my taxes being spent on, PReCisely what? If I suddenly have to start paying all these other taxes? We should be told. Clearly and without equivocation it should all be made plain just where our money is going and when it is coming back and where it will then go.
      Before we’re made pay for a single more damn thing and that includes the thing we’re 70% made of. The remainder being enough chemicals that combined in the right proportions would serve to bring down Dail Eireann with a very big bang.

    • John says:

      Your comment…one wonders if council houses are liable to pay water charges

    • somebody says:

      I am living in a country where water is charged. The tragedy started when private company got the cession of the supply system and sewage system. Paying is not really a problem, it starts at decent prices. But when private company starts to motivate charges increase the crazziness starts. Although local authorities were pretty corupt and not so good managers, still we, the population, had a better contol. I visited your country and simply felt in love with it, that’s why I dare to talk. Sorry for my english.

    • Jack Slattery says:

      When all of this is finished, the ordinary man in the street will have nothing left to pay anything. This Government do not have a clue what goes on in peoples houses. Next month there is the introduction of a CO2 tax on fuel – yet again more stealth tax. It surely must have come to the point where people in Ireland must stand against this. I think that the forthcoming referendum must be voted down. A vote “yes” will mean that the majority of households will not be even able to provide heating for their families.

      Jack Slattery

    • HKA says:

      The reality is, to any objective observer but clearly not the majority of the Irish population, that unquestioning acceptance of, and obedience to, all the self-serving cute hoorism of successive Irish governments has created a ‘Never-Never-Land’ where the electorate voted consistently for incompetent, self-serving and ‘hands in the public purse’ politicians.

      In short, to the unfortunately resident “non-national”, Ireland is a backward, dysfunctional state where nothing works properly; where corruption has been proven to exist from Dev onwards; where social services are more reminicent of those experienced under third world dictatorships than any modern European social democracy and where there is no logical social contract between people and government.

      As with everything else in Ireland, the debate on water is 100 years too late. The stay-at-home Irish have happily accepted all the bribes and promises of successive FF governments; condoned abusive institutions; colluded with the bling and vulgarity of the phantom Celtic Tiger; lined the pockets of their political ‘betters’; silently assented to obscent salaries, pensions and “entitlements” obscene and havethat the extraordinary number of leaks and wastage evidenced on so many roads are efficiently repaired – by trained engineers as opposed to local council handymen.

    • HKA says:

      The reality is, to any objective observer but clearly not the majority of the Irish population, that unquestioning acceptance of, and obedience to, all the self-serving cute hoorism of successive Irish governments has created a ‘Never-Never-Land’ where the electorate voted consistently for incompetent, self-serving and ‘hands in the public purse’ politicians.

      The water system in Ireland is unfit for purpose; thousands of houses have been built on flood plains; thousands of households are expelling sewage into a system designed to accommodate a few hundred; Engineers Ireland have reported on lunatic planning, bad internal and external plumbing plus water pipes embedded in asbestos cement. None of this is the fault or responsibility of the present government but it would appear the people of

      In short, to the unfortunately resident “non-national”, Ireland is a backward, dysfunctional state where nothing works properly; where corruption has been proven to exist from Dev onwards; where social services are more reminicent of those experienced under third world dictatorships than any modern European social democracy and where there is no logical social contract between people and government.

      As with everything else in Ireland, the debate on water is 100 years too late. The stay-at-home Irish have happily accepted all the bribes and promises of successive FF governments; condoned abusive institutions; colluded with the bling and vulgarity of a phantom Tiger; lined the pockets of their political ‘betters’ by silently assenting to obscene salaries, pensions and “entitlements” for self-aggrandising incompetents.

      NO questions were asked of those governments, no demands made for (even) ADEQUATE public services. What short and selective memories the Irish present: everything is now the fault of a government that has been in power for only one year. It is reminicent of the attitudes displayed after Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne – “nobody knew” what the clerics were at; today, “nobody knew” what FF and the PDs were at!! Indeed it seems those confidence tricksters and their cronies have nothing to worry about apart from which directorship to accept.

    • Ghi says:

      This comment by “Marcy” in the Irish Independent today (on article re Enda Kenny’s “threat” to cut off people’s water) and which I copy below really “taps” into the public mood at the moment…

      “This, the same party who shouted across the floor while in opposition, about their indignance that FF introduced the USC which they said was asking the ordinary citizens to pay for the bank guarantee/bailout. Wrap it up whichever way you want Enda…..USC, household charge, property tax, water charges-we all know what its for and so do you….except this time you have your a** in power so don’t need to pretend that you care about the ordinary citizens of this country. “the Government is not in a position to give people a free allowance”…just to remind you Enda, you and your party do not own this country; you do not own the water. Something which you all seem to forget when you get into government. And you do not own my house either. I paid for it in full over 20 years. Shove your “household charge/property tax” and your water charges into the same hole you lot can find for the bankers debts, property developers debts, tonnes of brown envelopes when they need to be hidden, scandalous wastes of tax-payers money which we won’t go into, favours for hob-nob friends which we won’t go into. Can’t give a free allowance…really? You give yourselves enough of them to cover all our household charges/water charges.
      And just like your buddy Mr. Hogan said a while back when asked to take a measly pay cut…my financial situation at this time prevents me from paying any of these charges. Only difference is, I’m not talking out of me ar*e.”

    • Liam O'Mahony says:

      I have news for Aiden: 100% of income goes to the government, eventually, unless it goes abroad in which case it goes to foreign governments. There is no other possible destination for money since every time it changes hands a proportion is hived off in one tax or another. Eventually it is all gone (to the government). All that matters is how many times it changes hands and whether good value is achieved when it does change hands.

    • Dan Donovan says:

      An item that might appear in the “A History of Ireland in 100 Insults”… He is so thick he believes the standing charge for water meters will actually end in 20 years.

    • mark says:

      Eamon Gilmore is either stupid or barefaced lying when he maintains that the supply of water that is currently being carried out by local authorities won’t be privatised once the Irish State has spent time,effort and money to fit meters, set up a billing system and start the collection process, repair all the leaking mains, in fact have all the hard work done. This will then be undervalued and sold out from under the Irish people, probably to a company which will have Bertie Ahern, Michael Lowry or Brian Cowan on the board or employed a a ‘special advisor’……….

      Private houses should be metered and pay for the water they consume. I have seen at first hand how much water is wasted in the Irish water system by consumers and it is staggering. If people had to pay directly for what they were using then they would have much more respect for what they get.

      I don’t agree with is the cost the will be incurred by the Irish State in setting up a new state body to do the job that could be done, and is being done by Local Authorities, very sucessfully, at the moment.
      Nor do I agree with stripping out another major function form the Irish Loacl Government system.
      Nor do I agree with the lies being told about how Irish Water will not be privatised since patently this is exactly what the Troika have in mind for all our state assets – its their stock-in-trade!
      I don’t trust the Dept of the Env to set up this task properly so that the interests of the Irish people are protected, just look at the mess the mandrins made of the household charge.

      I must also agree with Tom Healy (above) points out the long term failures of privatisation and how privatisation is only ever in favour of the company not the customers.

      The pity about all these voices raised in anger and protesters bursting into Ard Fheiseanna is that it is too little too late. They might as well be pissing in the sea for all the good it will do. Fianna Fail, who were voted in three times in a row by the Irish people, let the genie out of the bottle when they signed over our soverignty to the Troika. That is when we should have been on the streets, like the Greeks, and get a better deal. The same people who are now whinging about the domestic rates and water rates are the same people who were voting in Fianna Fail for a third time in 2007. There is no point in trying to take the effect and make it the cause.

    • Maurice Curtin says:

      I donn’t mind paying the water charge as long as the supplier, which I presume will be the Water Board, is obliged to enter into a contract to supply the public with a constant supply of clean, potable water at a suitable constant pressure. I’ve had enough of periods of dirty water from my local government supply which left a deep layers of brown mud in my storage tank to be removed by either myself or a plumber.

    • Mr. Satrap says:

      They already expunged my comment, dear. They have destroyed the context. They have taken all the fun out of it, darling. THEY are the satraps!

    • Mr. Satrap says:

      Please, dear, be quiet. Remember you are the wife of a satrap.

    • Mrs. Satrap says:

      All right, you know best.

    • David France says:

      Will the Government remove the subsidies paid to all group water schemes throughout the country paid out by Local Authories under the rural water programme. Each scheme is paid between €70 to €140 per household per year. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander etc

    • L Hogan says:

      So many people, including our leaders are looking at this the wrong way. Yes, CHARGE for water, but we can’t afford the installation of meters, nor the setting up of Irish Water. The figures announced (borrowed from the reserve pension fund) are only guesstimates at this stage. Why not add a fixed charge to the Household Tax for water services (if you’re connected to the mains supply) and even include another amount for Pat Rabbite’s Broadcasting Charge all together on the one administrative ticket? Cheap to implement and no need for ANOTHER quango which the present shower of politicians pledged to abolish.

    • KB says:

      Was on a private water scheme. About 12 years ago we handed it over to our local council. Before we could that we had to refurbish all the piping and install water meters at all dwellings and farms connected to the supply. Will I have to pay the €800 installation charge seeing as I already have a meter installed?

    • Caitriona says:

      I don’t have a problem with paying for water infrastructure, my problem is that it’s the government that is doing it. Well actually they are not, they are going to appoint a subsidiarity of Bord Gais to do the dirty work for them. Undoubtedly an “expert” from somewhere else will be brought in to head Irish Water. The rest of the jobs will go to interns (to save money) except for the privileged friends of friends roles. Of course this will be highly paid job with lots of perks. In which case the most expensive options will be chosen over the cheaper options because they know best.
      They will have the power of God and no accountability or transparency, as is normal practice in Ireland.If anyone wants to know where this money is truly going, well think high wages for ministers, pensions and high ranking civil servants, banks, developers E200k a year to maintain properties. Today Minister Reilly employed another consultant at E164k/yr, where do you think that money is coming from?

      Anyone who pays 800E for a water meter needs their heads examined. If there is no reason not for doing so, everyone should buy and install their own meters and send a receipt to the new Irish Water. The government keeps on about how installing the meters, along with inspecting septic tanks will be new sustainable employment. Well, if that is the case, how come FAS/Solas are not running courses and it costs close to a E1k for a private course. Also the CIF are not happy with anyone and everyone being “trained” for inspecting tanks, so I imagine plumbers won’t be happy either.
      Also, this is not to do with water shortages, in most other European countries water shortages are due to geography and/or poor infrastructure. Problems in Ireland are down to little or no investment in infrastructure including pipes, treatment plants etc, although we paid for it.
      In fact we should be bottling and selling water to the highest bidder, but lack the facilities, bar Ballygowan, of course.

    • Ben says:

      If the government can’t even manage to tell us about water charges without causing outrage and general confusion how can they possibly consider themselves qualified to actually set up an efficient and cost effective Irish Water Authority.

      I voted for this shower but I’m very sorry to say I wouldn’t trust this lot to run a bath.

    • euro sceptic says:

      Kennys well will soon run dry! FG are fast becoming FFailers! do they take us all for idiots? Time has come to make a stand enough is enough.. vote no for treaty1

    • Family Burke says:

      Its not so long ago that Dublin wanted the water from the west to water their lawns.
      We have to be carefull and have respect for this very valuable product given to us by God.
      Other countries are having this system of Water Meters & Rates for years.
      It might bring a bit of help in to the minds of Ill users to be carefull and spare this precious gift.
      There are many ways you can spare the cost and help the rivers lakes and wells not to run dry.

    • JOD says:

      My granny remembered the night the Tans burned Cork. She died in 1998 at the age of 98. She’d surely recognise the scene here: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0419/breaking20.html?via=mr

      When will the People of this country rise up again and throw off the Oppressor? And what if the Oppressor is some of our own people, shoneens baliffs and agents for our new absentEU landlord?

      Back in the twenties they had ways of dealing with them.

    • JOD says:

      My uncle Dennis told a funny story don’t know if it were true but apparently a few years after he’d emigrated to Canada and done well for himself out there he sent for my granny to come out for an holiday and so she did first time every she’d been outside Ireland maybe she was in her sixties or seventies but she’d a great time there and at the end of the trip my uncle held a barbecue and invited loads of people around and it was a great party. At some point or other someone asked Granny what she thought of Canada and she allegedly replied ”Tis great but it’s different from Ireland. At home we eat in the house and s*** outside!” She was a hardy oul woman raised her five kids on a garda sergant’s pay and thereafter widow’s pension. Her husband nearly lost his life defending this State from those who would have overthrown Her back in the forties and thought that leaving bombs outside dancehalls and in police stations and shooting officers in the head was the way to do it. She and he’d be appalled to see what’s being done to this State now, by foreign and domestic enemies. There’s little doubt in my mind but that war is being levied upon Ireland and the country that so many fought and died to free is once more being enslaved. Only this time without a shot being fired. Yet. I think of my granny when I look at my fish tank given that the biotope is Amazonian acid. She’d have had plenty to say to the traitors above in the Dail.

    • Mike says:

      Of course water should be charged. Pay-as-you-go. And privatized, as successive Irish governments have proved themselves incapable of organizing a piss-up in a brewery.

    • JOD says:

      My heart goes out to anyone thrown out of their home regardless of how other factors may or may not exist in the case. Lost my own home twice once my parental home when dad’s business failed back in the eighties and once my own one following marriage breakdown. The emotional wrench is sickening. How many unfilmed times are scenarios such as the one in Killiney today being played out around the country? Families and marriages wrecked as a result of action taken by banks themselves protected from their own greed perfidy criminality and plain evilness by we taxpayers whose livlihoods said banks have also in many cases wrecked. Which are supposed to be the building blocks of society? Families? Marriages? Homes? Or banks? Which will now be paid even more ‘advising’ the Satraps on the privatisation of the taxpayer’s and more importantly the PEOPLE’s water. And we’ll hear of other scenes, where homes are cutoff from the very essence of life itself because of an inabilty to pay due to what these banks have done to society. They managed to start two world wars, or at the very least waxed fat financing them. And in so-called peacetime they wage war against us economically. Yet they are not just ‘banks’. They are Irish people and other nationals running them, taking their orders, inflicting more damage upon our state and society. ”Banks” haven’t committed economic war-crimes against this State and society. It was established at Nuremberg that States can’t commit warcrimes only people can. People are committing economic war crimes against this State and society. And our so-called ”democratic government” is ignoring covering up turning blind eyes to and facilitating them just as they and their predecessors in that other shower of reformed terrorists Fianna Fail do and did down Shannon Warport way. Because the government and its parties, each and every individual amongst them, are interested only in feathering their own nests and making out with the expenses and hanging on til the Pinshun kicks in after the next election.
      At which they surely will be destroyed. And thus will end the two civil war parties and the labour party in this State, just as the Greens and the PDs were ended. And whatever we’ll get next I don’t know. Hopefully, reformed terrorists again at least and not something even worse. The ways we had of dealing with Oppressors in this country back in the twenties clearly bore out Nietzche’s dictum and created a whole new bunch of Oppressors in turn. Try as I might though I don’t see how ”turn the other cheek” would work even though as an idea it did manage to destroy the Roman Empire and got the British out of India. The Irish are world-class at turning the other cheek and when did it ever get us anywhere?

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