Abolition of Irish Water would cost €271m, claim AAA-PBP
Socialist Party claims outlay would include expense of repaying those who paid charge
Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit have announced a further water charges protest for this coming Saturday in Dublin city centre at 2pm. Photograph: The Irish Times
Abolishing Irish Water would cost €271 million, Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit (AAA-PBP) have claimed.
Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy said that would include the cost of repaying householders who have already paid water charges, which in the first nine months of 2015 amounted to €110.8 million.
“We estimate the cost of abolishing Irish Water to be €271 million which is the targeted revenue for Irish Water,” he said.
Mr Murphy also claimed “water charges can be sunk in the next few weeks and Irish Water should be put out of its misery because Irish Water is a tax – which is a loss-making operation”.
He said “all the stuff that is useful from the point of view what workers are doing would need to continue”, with a significant increase in infrastructure investment.
“They have a tax that is losing money. Apart from paying the money back this actually saves us money.”
He said they should reorganise water infrastructure “in a far more rational way without the super quango, the consultants and everything that goes with Irish Water. Instead have it devolve back to the council workers who are the ones in effect still doing the work, and with a national water authority.”
Mr Murphy was speaking at a press conference outside Irish Water headquarters in Dublin where he and AAA -PBP colleagues tore up their water charges bills.
The group claimed water charges could be abolished by voting for left-wing candidates and by the 50 per cent of householders they claim have not paid water charges continuing their boycott.
Irish Water has said three in four householders are paying their water charges, including 61 per cent on public water schemes and a further 15 per cent through group schemes, septic tanks or private wells.
Mr Murphy said they did not necessarily dispute that 61 per cent of households were paying because “Irish Water haven’t published the figures. But what is hidden in that phrase is that 61 per cent of people have at one stage have paid a bill.”
He said that from the figures that four in 10 peoples have never paid anything. “We know they only hit 55 per cent of their targeted revenue for last year. Only 55 per cent of those who were eligible for conservation grant have claimed it.”
Irish Water would not release the full figures but “on the basis of all that information we think we’re very accurate in saying the boycott is about 50 per cent”.
The group also announced another water protest for this coming Saturday in Dublin city centre at 2pm.
Cllr Bríd Smith, a Dublin South-Central candidate said “feet on the street are massively important”.
There had been a “massive retreat by the Department of the Environment on behalf of the Government in the way they’re implementing these charges” because of the anti-water charges movement.
Cllr Michael O’Brien, Anti-Austerity Alliance candidate in Dublin Bay North criticised the “convoluted bureaucratic way” Irish Water operated.
“If I go to Dublin city council, they contact Irish Water and then they go to city council workers to fix the problem. It’s bureaucratic and there is a democratic deficit.” He said that under the local authority there was a more direct accountable relationship.
John Lyons, People Before Profit candidate in Dublin Bay North said: “I don’t think the media realise how much of a radicalisation that’s occurred in Ireland over the past two years. Hundreds of thousands of people have actually engaged in a political process on the ground through the anti-water charges campaign.”
Mr Murphy also claimed that water charges did not have a significant impact on water conservation.
“In Britain the average adult uses 141 litres a day and in Ireland 148 litres. In Britain there are very large charges but a minimal difference in usage.”
He said: “All the studies indicate that when water charges come in, initially usage dips but then comes back up to a level.
“And so in effect it’s a regressive tax. They’re rationing access to water according to wealth.”
He said Socialist TD Joe Higgins argued in the Dáil when he was elected that there should be building regulations for dual water flushes and “grey” water harvesting.
Mr Murphy said that a quarter of the State’s housing stock had been built. “That could have been put in at minimal cost.”
He said “it would have hit the developers a little bit but it would have had far more impact. But now we have to go and retrofit all of that stuff and we should have a scheme to do that and that would have a much bigger impact on water conservation than charges.”