A constitutional referendum to block the privatisation of Irish Water should be held next year, the Green Party has said.
The party wants to amend Article 10 of the Constitution which deals with ownership of natural resources to state that “... the State shall not provide for the privatisation or commercialisation of water services for the people.”
Party leader Eamon Ryan said legislation banning the sale of Irish Water would be insufficient because it could be overturned by future governments.
“At the moment the continued public ownership of this precious resource hangs on the support of the government of the day. We believe that our water supply should never be up for sale. We can ensure that that will never happen by inserting a new Article into our constitution which would guarantee the public ownership of our water supply into the future.”
While the Government has said it has no plans to privatise Irish Water, the way the utility had been set up made it attractive for commercial buyers, he said.
“Private equity markets are particularly interested in this type of regulated asset company where there is a guaranteed income stream. The whole bonus and financing arrangements that have been put in place around Irish Water have been designed as if it is already a private commercial company.”
This referendum would be a step towards “winning back the trust of the Irish people in the way our water supply is being managed,” Mr Ryan said.
When asked why his party didn’t resolve this issue when in Government Mr Ryan said the Green Party had always made it clear that privatisation of water was “off the table” and would have held a referendum on that issue before introducing water charges .
He called for cross party support, and the support of all city and county councils, for the holding of a constitutional referendum.