Water charges debacle reveals Dáil as ‘ivory tower’ says TD

Maureen O’Sullivan and others in Opposition label Irish Water a ‘debacle’ and a ‘quango’

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan has accused the Government of failing to understand the impact of austerity on people when introducing water charges.

She told the Dáil that Irish Water had been a debacle, leaving aside the principle held by many people who believed in the right to free water.

“There is no realisation of the extent of the effect of the austerity measures on ordinary people, and the disconnect between this ivory tower in here and the real world outside has been highlighted,’’ said Ms O’Sullivan.

She said a social impact analysis would have revealed that not enough credit was available to many families to cover the proposed charge.


“We could have learned other lessons from tribunals and past governments, and this Government would have realised the distaste that citizens have for wasting public funds, the allocation of bonuses and the consultation and solicitors’ fees associated with the foundation of Irish Water,’’ Ms O’Sullivan said.

“We know it was an unacceptable farce; Irish Water was doomed to fail before even one meter was installed.’’

Seán Fleming (FF) said the Government had come into the Dáil full of gusto, determined to charge water rates and set up a new State quango, having spent the previous year saying it would abolish quangos.

"However, it went on to establish the biggest quango since the setting up of the ESB, something many of those on the Government side of the House now boast about,'' he added.

John Halligan (Ind) said Irish Water would be privatised at some point, as a future government would have no choice in a few years but to do so.

“The company will lose money hand over fist and someone will seek a better way for it to be run,’’ he added.

"When poorly performing semi-State companies cannot be wound down, they tend to be privatised and this is what happened to water services in England and Scotland. ''

Mr Halligan said in a period of six to eight years, the cost of water in England and Scotland had risen by a “staggering 64 per cent’’.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times