Government haste over water body criticised by Limerick TD


THE GOVERNMENT is rushing to establish a water authority without seriously considering the wider “costs and consequences” of a new State monopoly over such an important resource, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Niall Collins claimed the Government had engaged in a “smokescreen process” which was utterly undermined because the Cabinet had “already decided what it was going to do”.

Mr Collins said the consultation process was mere “window dressing and tinkering around the edges”. During a two hour-debate on the controversy surrounding the establishment of Irish Water, the Limerick TD repeated his party’s call for the Government to stop before it “goes further down the disastrous road chosen”.

He warned about stripping 34 local authorities of “one of their key roles”. The Government was “aggressively pressing ahead with this” even though it had not yet published the White Paper on local government reform.

Opening the debate, Minister for the Environment and Local Government Phil Hogan defended the proposed establishment of Irish Water under the aegis of Bord Gáis and the move to install water meters, starting this year.

Doing it through the gas company “will facilitate making best use of existing resources and capacity within the public sector”. He stressed that at a conservative estimate, metering would cut water consumption by 10 per cent. “Metering does change habits,” he added.

“Reducing unnecessary water use reduces the operations costs of providing water services as well as providing longer term savings in relation to capital investment,” the Minister said.

Sinn Féin spokesman Brian Stanley pointed out that the EU-IMF requirement on water charges “does not mention metering”.

He said Sierra Support Services, a Siteserv plc company, had won the contract for up to €60 million to become the sole services provider and maintenance of more than one million water meters.

“Siteserv was sold to businessman Denis O’Brien recently. This raises serious questions about who will receive the contract for the installation and maintenance of more than 1 million water meters. We are led to believe that these meters will require regular maintenance and recalibration.”

Socialist Party TD Clare Daly also opposed moving responsibility from the local authorities who have the expertise and staff. She said the profitable areas of water provision would be “hived off to Irish Water and the rest will be left with the local authorities to handle as they see fit”.