Water charges and the new politics
Sir, – Anyone who thinks that Fianna Fáil has learned from its mistakes should listen to its argument that any European fines are a long way off, implying that we don’t need to plan for the future, especially if popular opinion dictates otherwise. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Good old Fine Gael. It couldn’t never pass a sleeping dog without giving it a kick. Good to see Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar keeping up the party tradition. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Sarah Bardon’s analysis on the likely fate of water charges (“Will water charges return or will I get my money back?”, February 28th) raises an alarming prospect with regard to the treatment of those who have paid their bills versus those who have not. This matter was specifically provided for in the “confidence and supply” arrangement entered into between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil following last year’s election when, in return for Fianna Fail support for a minority government, it was agreed that “those who have paid their water bills to date will be treated no less favourably than those who have not”.
Against this background, the vista, set out in the article, of those who paid bills having their refunds reduced to recoup the €100 conservation grant, with those who did not pay charges not being pursued for recoupment of the grant, seems not only anomalous and unfair but totally irrational.
Many at the time questioned the logic of paying the conservation grant to those who refused to pay water charges, a grant that appeared to have been introduced in the hope of making water charges more palatable.
Whatever about the rationale for the grant, any proposal to recoup it from those who – in compliance with the law – paid their due charges, while not doing so in the case of those who refused to pay, serves only to punish the compliant and reward the lawbreakers. – Yours, etc,
TIM O’ LEARY,
Sir, – With the effective abolition of domestic water charges, we hear frequently from some voices the expectation that Irish Water will soon disappear too.
Consumption-based domestic water charges might have been a novelty in Ireland, but the charging of supply to businesses has been standard for decades. Nevertheless it appears to be news to many in front-line politics that Irish Water was established to take on all of the nation’s businesses and commercial entities as customers, as well as domestic households.
While domestic charging was a green-field business that allowed a universal approach from the start, the commercial side would involve taking on existing customers from local authorities, with many different pre-agreed rates, terms and conditions. Some authorities had actually outsourced this activity to third-party private companies.
The complexity of integrating these legacy agreements into a single system must be considerable, and we can be thankful that a national utility has the opportunity, over time, to bring standardisation and transparency to the area, as well as being able to maintain and enhance supply in an holistic way.
Regardless of domestic charges, excessive use penalties, household allowances or refunds, Irish Water seems to be here to stay. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Fianna Fáil needs to get real. A hard Brexit threatens the jobs of thousands of our citizens, and to avoid catastrophe we need every bit of goodwill we can get in Europe. This is decidedly not the time to cock a snook at EU institutions and laws to which we freely signed up. – Yours, etc,
Malahide, Co Dublin.
A chara, – The majority of TDs who were democratically elected to Leinster House stood on a platform that included the abolition of water charges, and an Oireachtas committee on the future of water funding now appears set to hammer the final nail into the coffin of the water charges fiasco.
Yet Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney has already declared that, despite the overwhelming tide of democracy against him, he will not legislate to bring about the abolition of water charges. Instead he has lazily labelled the push to abolish the charges as “populist”, as if he sees abiding by the democratic will of the people as something to be derided.
The problem is not that our elected politicians are standing by the democratic mandate that was given to them by the people. The problem is the arrogant, ideological obstinacy of Mr Coveney and his ilk, who think that they are somehow noble in imposing their minority agenda on the majority of the people.
At some point however, this stance ceases to be an ideological one and surreptitiously slips into tyranny. We must not let the will of the elite few dictate the lives of the ordinary majority. That is not a “populist” stance, that is democracy. – Is mise,
Sir, – Arguments over water charges are nothing new. Dubliners were paying for piped water as early as the 13th century, when their levies were collected by contractors appointed by the city assembly. Four hundred years later, they were still paying. The Dublin city pipe water accounts for 1680 record 303 entries, most for domestic use. The annual charge was £1, while brewers and distillers paid from £2 to £6. As the city grew, so did the piped water supply. By 1706, there were 782 homes turning on their taps. And they were still paying for the privilege. – Yours, etc,