Ervia head defends establishment of Irish Water

Ireland had the most modern gas and electricity infrastructure in Europe, MacGill summer school told

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty: said issue was whether to ask people who had nothing in the cupboards to pay the same for water as people who had ‘plenty in the cupboards’. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty: said issue was whether to ask people who had nothing in the cupboards to pay the same for water as people who had ‘plenty in the cupboards’. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Ervia chief executive Michael McNicholas has strongly defended the establishment of Irish Water.

Mr McNicholas said Ireland had the most modern gas and electricity infrastructure in Europe. And Irish Water had been set up as a commercial semi-state utility that was owned by the people of Ireland but that could fund itself through borrowings. The €271 million in water charges levied on households would allow it to borrow money to fund the infrastructure, he said.

“We’ve actually borrowed €1 billion in the last 12 months to invest in our infrastructure. And people told us we couldn’t do it. People told us the volume of work.”

“We are being pilloried by nonsense in some of the media that have debt. My God, we were set up to raise debt. We were set up to raise debt to invest in infrastructure. Because, frankly, no government has ever spent enough money on that infrastructure. And it’s rubbish to say that in the last 10 years we were spending enough. We weren’t. We were racing to catch up with European directives because our waste water was in such a disgraceful position.”

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said for him the issue was whether to ask people who had nothing in the cupboards to pay the same for water as people who had “plenty in the cupboards”.

“(Do) you ask them to pay for a service which is supposed to be about conserving water but it doesn’t matter if you let the taps run all night for the next three years because you won’t pay a penny extra?”

The real issue was whether there was a willingness to invest properly in water services.

“The €271 million that is going to Irish Water from domestic users in the event they pay their bills is not going to be the solution to this problem. Forty-nine per cent of our treated water is lost in our pipe network. Yet we turn the debate on people who supposedly go to sleep and leave their taps, their baths or showers running all night. What is being lost is a problem of the State. The State has the capacity to invest in its water infrastructure, in the pipes under the ground, to put the resources in that would make huge advances in terms of the cost of treating our water, more than anybody turning their baths off at night.”

Mr Doherty said if we were serious about the issue we would be supporting people to invest in water conservation measures.

“There are other ways to do it. But this is a grab. It is about putting the hands in people’s pockets and asking for more money to try and support the State.”