Excess payments plan could lead to water charges again – Murphy

Attempted reintroduction is fruit of Fianna Fáil ‘betrayal of election promise’ – Solidarity TD

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said: “There is a world of difference between Irish Water’s plan for charges and their actual implementation. Water charges remain politically completely toxic.” File photograph: Getty Images

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said: “There is a world of difference between Irish Water’s plan for charges and their actual implementation. Water charges remain politically completely toxic.” File photograph: Getty Images

 

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy has said the introduction of excess water charges starting from next year could lead to a reintroduction of water charges in the future.

That Irish Water plans to charge for water from next January “will come as no surprise to those following the debates in the Dáil”, he said.

Such an attempted reintroduction was the fruit of Fianna Fáil’s “betrayal of its election promise”, he continued.

“Clearly, any excessive usage charges would only be the thin edge of the wedge in attempting to reintroduce water charges for all,” he said in a statement.

“However, there is a world of difference between Irish Water’s plan for charges and their actual implementation. Water charges remain politically completely toxic.”

The Government, he stated, facing into local, European and possibly a general election in 2019, “would be making a serious political error if it actually tried to implement these hated charges”.

‘Mass opposition’

Mr Murphy said the implementation will be met with “mass opposition” from people who had campaigned against the introduction of water charges.

“If they do proceed with reintroducing charges, they will be unable to implement them in reality. They will face mass opposition from people who, after waging a successful campaign of non-payment and mass protest to defeat water charges, won’t accept them being brought in through the back door.

“What’s more, Irish Water would face an immense obstacle in the fact that 40 per cent of homes in the State do not have meters – and therefore cannot be charged.”

Water charges were first mentioned in 2009, when then minister for finance Brian Lenihan, in his budget speech that December, announced preparations for the measure were under way.

In November 2010, the government published a memorandum of understanding on the conditions of the €85 billion EU-IMF bailout, which said water charges would be introduced in 2012 or 2013, by which time water meters were to be installed across the State.

It also said responsibility for water would be transferred from local authorities to a new water utility.

In 2014, the Commission for Energy Regulation, now the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, revealed details of water charges which indicated the average cost for a household of two adults and two children would come in at €278.

Metering started in October 2014 and the first bills began to arrive in early January 2015.

In October 2014, opposition to the charges intensified as upwards of 50,000 people marched against them in Dublin in one of the largest demonstrations seen in the capital in years.

The Green Party called for a referendum that would ensure water services remained in public ownership.

In November 2017, Irish Water began a refund process and started issuing cheques to those who had paid for water services.