HSE/H20. Government Makes Complete Shit of Irish Water Launch

Flushing toilets with sterilised water

Can we do anything right in this country?


Well, actually we can.  Ireland leads the world in How Not To Do Things.  We’re the best in the whole wide world at that.


How not to sell off a country’s gas resources.

How not to rescue defective banks.

How not to pour billions into the accounts of international gamblers.

How not to confront abusive clergy for money.

How not to build toll-bridges.

How not to design motorway layouts.

How not to break up a rail network.

How not to legislate for abortion.

How not to do e-voting.


Our latest entry in the Harvard Business School’s anthology of disastrous public policy research assignments is of course How not to launch a water company.

Leaving aside whether or not you think we already pay for our water, we can all agree that Irish Water‘s launch has been an unmitigated, ignominious flop.  From the invisibility of its chief executive John Tierney to the imperious, condescending tone of its PR person Elizabeth Arnett, this organisation has exuded from every corporate pore the mentality that makes up its DNA.

The old Health Boards were originally part of the local councils.  They shared the same staff, the same pedestrian bureaucratic attitudes and the same authoritarian streak, all of which transferred across to the Health Boards when they finally became separate entities, and those attitudes did not go away.  Consequently, when they all became amalgamated into the HSE, we ended up with an organisation that was fit for no purpose, packed with unqualified administrators calling themselves managers — a shockingly arthritic and arrogant amalgam of people who thrive best in Irish local government.  The dog-licence people.

With the creation of Irish Water, the Health Board step has been skipped and the government is trying to jump straight to HSE/H2O.

It’s precisely the same process with precisely the same overbearing, arrogant attitudes, reflected in the demand that people hand over their PPS numbers and underlined by the fact that it will cost you 35 cents a minute to call them if you have a question.

Insult upon insult, but who’s surprised when the organisation is run by a former local government apparatchik?

I’m not going into the rights and wrongs of paying for water because it’s outside the scope of this post.  Let’s do it another day.  However, I do think it’s about time the people expressed their rage at the things that have been done to them, including paying the likes of Roman Abramovich full value on the bonds he bought at 10% of face value, and including underwriting the losses of banks that had nothing to do with the broader economy.

It’s only a pity that the same people weren’t out on the streets in a rage when Bertie Ahern and Ray Burke signed over our gas resources to Shell Oil for no return at all to the public purse.  What a shame that most people in Ireland swallowed the government’s spin and wrote off the Rossport protesters as cranks but at least they’re waking up now, even if it is in response to some of the stupidest arguments anyone has ever heard.

Clean water doesn’t come free.  It never has, any more than food is free or shelter or clothing, and therefore, that end of the clamour is not worth exploring or engaging with.

However, the philosophical question as to whether government should supply unlimited clean water to everyone is another matter, and the debate needs to be conducted in a respectful manner.  For myself, I can’t understand the logic of treating water to a level of sterility that it could almost be used in an operating theatre.  Why deliver such germ-free water to every home so that most of it can be used to flush toilets, wash clothes, mop floors, water lawns, power-clean driveways and hose the mud from cars?  Why do we deliver it to factories to cool machinery?

I think this is bordering on the insane and I think it illustrates very neatly the absurdity of the Irish Water argument.

We’re currently fighting for the right to flush toilets with sterile water.

Is that not mad?

Maybe if we reoriented ourselves and realised that we could resolve  all this conflict by rethinking our needs, there might be no need at all for such conflict.

Still though.  Didn’t the government make a complete shit of the Irish Water launch?

15 thoughts on “HSE/H20. Government Makes Complete Shit of Irish Water Launch

  1. Good article Bock and I predict the only visible casualty in this will be Ms Arnett, the powers behind the scene will be unaffected.

  2. I escaped around 30 years ago to a place where water tanks are expected. If it falls from the sky we harvest it and use it in toilets, the laundry, the garden, wherever. Some of us even drink it and are still alive.
    Are ye not allowed to have water tanks, have I missed something ?
    Just wondering.

  3. @snookertony

    From a economic point of view, there was never any point. You open your tap, water comes out. Why go to all the hassle of buying a water tank, hooking it up etc.

    Things might be different now that people will have to pay for it.

    For what it’s worth, I’m quite shocked to see people using drinking water to wash cars, water gardens etc.

  4. If I pissed in a leaky bucket of water and told you that you had to pay for it to be cleaned would you be happy? Philisophically speaking I believe that every man, woman and child has a right to access drinking water, paid for by general taxation with industry and the wealthy paying their fair share.

  5. What is the difference between access to free water and free access to water? These two concepts seem to have been mixed up.

  6. Aon – the flaw in your argument is the payment ‘by general taxation’. What general taxation? Taxpayers are rare beasts in this country now. How would you propose that the water used by people who don’t pay tax be paid for?

  7. If every man, woman and child has a right to access drinking water, how is it that countless millions of people don’t have access to drinking water?

  8. Who doesn’t pay tax in this country? Water has been funded in part through vrt and motor tax since the late seventies. I suppose there are various reasons as to why countless millions of people don’t have access to drinking water. Personally I don’t agree that any person should be allowed to extract an economic rent endowed through legal privilege on such a vital resource. Especially not a tax avoiding cowboy who stated that one reason for his not paying tax was he didn’t trust the government with it.

  9. Aon – who doesn’t pay tax??? How much time have you got??? Start with everybody on welfare of one kind or another…and when you say the wealthy should pay their fair share – a principle with which I agree – how do you determine what’s fair? My idea of fair would be pay for what you use, measured by a meter – use more = pay more, that’s fair. Paying the bill for six or seven idle useless spongers as well as your own isn’t my idea of fair.
    Now – same question again – how would you set up a system so that water is paid for pro rata by those who consume it, and who are not taxpayers? Hint: You’re allowed use the word ‘meter’ in your answer….

  10. There’s a difference between saying people should have a right and saying they actually have a right.

    Nobody in Ireland, for instance, has a right to be housed or fed, however laudable that aspiration might be. There’s no universal right to vote or to receive an education. In some countries, women have no rights at all.

    We’re not born with rights. They’re either granted or else fought for and won.

  11. Ctrl C, Ctrl V, we’ll give it another go shur.

    We’re not born with rights. They’re either granted or else fought for and won

    Bock, when you wrote about that recently, I found myself agreeing with one of your commenters – Mark.

    “You’re right to point out that in many parts of the world people’s rights are denied, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that those rights aren’t innate.

    If we revise the notion that “man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”, it’s not long before people are telling us that those chains are natural and not to be challenged – as they did for centuries in feudal and other societal orders.”

    You didn’t take that comment onboard, no?

  12. Oh for fuck’s sake..
    I’ll try again.

    Rights are inherent & inalienable.
    Because they’ve been hard won and denied to oppressed people since time immemorial, doesn’t mean these rights are therefore illegitimate and oppression is the natural order, unless you’ve won a battle to ensure your rights.

    It’s a ideal we have, and any obstruction to that ideal we condemn. Normally.
    That’s the natural order, but not in Bock’s world it would seem.

  13. We’re all entitled to pursue happiness, but we don’t all achieve it. We’re all entitled to try and get rich, but we don’t all get rich; many of us end up poor. If wishes were horses beggars would ride.

  14. I think their is a misunderstanding of rights. The idea is that a human right is of universal benefit and applies equally to all. You are quite right Bock when you say there is a difference between saying people should have a right and saying they actually have a right, that’s why we have laws.

  15. Aon, agreed.
    I take exception to the notion of rights being granted.
    Who are they granted by?
    They can be denied, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

    In any event, I believe we have a right to clean water.
    How it’s paid for is another thing.
    I certainly don’t think this government were financially prudent in the setting up of Irish Gravy and their days are numbered for it.

    The contempt they’ve shown to people with this is outrageous.
    They make a farce of it from the beginning and the only communication they issue to people of this country have been threats.
    Threats of fines for not registering, threats of water being reduced to a trickle.
    Threats of imprisonment.

    Every time I hear that eegit Enda, I’m applaud he’s in charge.
    He who gets patted on the head by the grown ups in Europe and he telling other prime ministers – David Cameron, to play by the rules.
    Imagine a proper fucking eegit telling a grown up, intelligent, competent person how he needs to run his affairs in his country.

    As for Bruton, another one with nothing but contempt.
    Her in her best Brown Thomas outfits and sneering that protesters seem to have fancy phones. Deluded. They forget who they’re working for.

    Entitled spongers, the lot.

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