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Environment Politics

Irish Water charges to be suspended in political fudge

irish water chargesThe Irish Water charges will be suspended if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil manage to cobble together some sort of political fudge in a desperate attempt to retain power.

Are we surprised?

Leave to one side the fact that water charges were conceived by Fianna Fáil and implemented by their evil twin, Fine Gael. Ignore the crass desire for power that allowed them both to arrive at this short-term deal. Disregard the fact that the hospitals are bursting with emergency cases and people are waiting years to get life-saving scans while the politicians agonise over a couple of hundred euros a year for water.

Put all that to one side and reflect instead on what these clowns in Fianna Gael / Fine Fáil have wrought by their ham-fisted introduction of a water utility, perhaps the most inept ever, thus book-ending our economic collapse as the most severe in the history of this most wealthy corner of the planet.

Rarely have we seen an issue so well-suited to cynics, opportunists and downright political disrupters, bless them. Where would we be without disrupters?

Let us disregard the question of charges for the moment and look at the infrastructure as it stands.

In this country, we have 31 local authorities, each of which, until the creation of Irish Water, was responsible for providing fresh water and sewerage services to its local community.

Is that a good model? Would it make sense to have thirty-one electricity monopolies? Thirty-one gas monopolies for a tiny population like Ireland’s? Would it not make more sense to create one single water and sewerage organisation in order to develop a plan for the entire country? And if not, please explain why not.

Many campaigned against the creation of Irish Water solely on the principle that it should not exist regardless of water charges, but many others objected to paying anyone anywhere any time and the arguments ranged from the strictly rational to the barking mad.

The rational people argued that they already pay for water in their taxes while the barking mad drifted towards the delusional, suggesting that treated, piped water should be free because it falls out of the sky.

Like food should be free.

I’m not too fond of the idea that I should pay for anything. I don’t like handing over money any more than the next man, and I’ll be up front about this: I haven’t paid an Irish Water bill yet, but that’s not because I don’t think I should pay to have water treated and delivered to my home, and then removed when I’m finished with it.

The reason I haven’t paid an Irish Water bill yet is because of the arrogant, intimidating, threatening attitude they took to us. I didn’t like the swagger of their ads or the condescension of their leading PR woman.

I didn’t like the attitude of their chief executive, once known as the million-dollar man when he was a middling clerk in Limerick County Council but since elevated to great office, even if he didn’t exactly grace that office with greatness.

I didn’t like them, I didn’t like their attitude and I didn’t pay them, but at the same time I knew that treating and delivering water costs money.

The other thing I didn’t like was the swaggering, condescending attitude of the anti-water lobby. I didn’t like being labelled as a corporate shill simply for questioning their opposition to water charges and I still don’t like it.

I don’t like the opposition to water metering since it is perfectly obvious that we should always measure what we waste if we are to protect this planet, but it seems that even if Irish Water is abolished there will be people opposed to metering for reasons they won’t be able to explain.

And besides, even if we abolish Irish Water, what will we replace it with? Thirty-one local authorities? No. We’ll replace it with Irish Water under another name, because that’s what makes sense.

What are the reasons to oppose Irish Water?

This: It could be taken over by private interests. A rational point that could easily be dealt with by legislation.

This: It charges us money even though we already pay for the service. A rational point that could be dealt with by debating the accounts.

This: Water is free. No it isn’t, any more than food is free.

This: Water is a human right. Not it’s not, unless that right is given to you by law.

There were many reasons to oppose the badly misconceived Irish Water Scheme but sadly, the opposition seems to have been hijacked by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Where would they be without Denis O’Brien to provide the scary bits?