May 2015        

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Alan Hanlon

On 21 April, Right2Water organised another peaceful demonstration of the working class opposed to the privatisation of water and the whole campaign of austerity and forced emigration launched in 2008.
     There were more than 80,000 on the demonstration in Dublin from all parts of the country. Once more the bourgeois yellow media tried to claim there were only 30,000 there. This is laughable, and a clear indication that the yellow press cannot report the truth but have to play along with the government propaganda machine that the numbers are going down.
     Leaving aside the issuing of bills to dead people, the €50 million paid in consultants’ fees in 2013, the bonus culture, undrinkable water in parts of the country, and the Siteserv farce, the propaganda continues.
     At the beginning of February, Irish Water claimed that “over half the households expected to pay bills had registered their details with Irish Water.” They said 850,000 homes had provided their details, out of 1½ million customers. Unfortunately for Irish Water, 400,000 of these are homes with their own septic tanks and wells or are part of group schemes. They won’t in fact be paying any water charges to Irish Water but are registering to get Alan Kelly’s generous grant of taxpayers’ money.
     So the actual figure was 450,000 at that time, out of 1½ million households. Of these, about 35,000 returned their packages with no details but were registered anyway. An unknown number wrote “Return to sender” or “No contract” on the envelope, and were also registered. Irish Water also got customers’ details from An Bord Gáis. In effect, then, fewer than 400,000 had signed up by February.
     According to the 2011 census there are 1,994,845 dwellings in the state. Of these, 334,374 were vacant at the time of the census. The figures for local property tax just published by the Revenue Commissioners show that a total of 1.86 million households made returns or were exempt. This, according to the Revenue Commissioners, is a compliance rate of 96 per cent. This, then, indicates a figure of 1.9 million households, which is consistent with the census figure.
     There is a big difference between 1.5 million customers being claimed by Irish Water and the actual number of households. Irish Water originally sent out over 2 million packs. Their web site claims 1.237 million registered, which is 80 per cent—990,000 customers, or 66 per cent of the total number.
     But of course the 990,000 includes the 400,000, as does the 1.5 million. So if the 990,000 is taken as a percentage of the actual number of households, it is 49 per cent—less than half. And bear in mind that a considerable number of these were registered despite their wishes and unknown to themselves. An Bord Gáis, local authorities, the Department of Social Protection, the Revenue Commissioners, the Private Residential Tenancies Board and other groups have all either passed or will pass information to Irish Water, meaning that the figure is definitely less than 49 per cent.
     Another aspect of the misinformation emanating from Irish Water’s Propaganda Department is that the Department of Social Protection has made provision to pay the household grant to 1.3 million households. So even without the protests it was factored in that more than 500,000 would not register.
     Next we have the water meters. Originally these were a water-conservation measure. When that didn’t work they were to discover the leaks. Irish Water claims that 49 per cent of the system is leaking. This was when the local authorities were operating the system. Waterford City and County Councils addressed the water leak problem years ago, but Phil Hogan abolished Waterford City Council when he set up the Irish Water quango.
     More than 500,000 meters were installed up to January, according to Irish Water. They estimate that 60 per cent of the leaks are in the home, so householders will be caught for repairing the leak, regardless of whether it is an ordinary tap leak or a public pipe running through a garden. The very fact that so far not every house has a meter means of course that for the majority of households the bills being issued are notional and not based on actual usage. So much for the “conservation” claim.
     If this were not enough to discredit Irish Water, at least two developers in Waterford have written to Irish Water warning it not to install meters or lay pipes on estates that those developers have under bond with the local authority. If other developers around the country adopt the same policy, Irish Water is in effect dead in the water.

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