May 2016        

Water: Scarce commodity or valuable natural resource?

Jimmy Doran

As Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael agree to set up another committee to manage the affairs of the rich, water charges and Irish Water have been used as a political football between them. In this centenary year it just goes to show that James Connolly got it right when he wrote: “If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the Green Flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”
     Well, when we hoisted the Green Flag we got twenty-six counties and the gombeen political class of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party to continue where Britain left off.
     Fianna Fáil, who agreed with the Troika to bring in water charges of around €800 per year, decided after their near-annihilation at the polls in 2011, coupled with the regular 100,000+ people on the streets demonstrating against water charges, that it might be better to postpone them for five years.
     Fine Gael, on the other hand, being ideologically wedded to water charges, stuck to the neo-liberal agenda and kept up the argument of water being a scarce commodity and that it needed to be conserved and paid for. Fine Gael are ideologically bound to this argument, so it will come as no surprise that the CPI disagrees. Fine Gael’s argument has no reason other than to continue their neo-liberal agenda of privatisation, physical austerity, deregulation, “free trade” (I’ll get back to that), and reductions in public spending in order to enhance the role of private capital in the economy.
     Water is not a scarce commodity. Water is a valuable natural resource, which must be kept in public ownership and exploited for the common good, and not for private profit, as has been done with everything from our oil and gas to mobile-phone licences.
     Alan Kelly has said that the scrapping of water charges is “environmental treason.” Once again the CPI disagrees. It is economic treason to sell this hugely valuable resource for a one-off payment when it will then be exploited by their corporate friends for private gain, at our expense.
     Water in Ireland, unlike most of the rest of the world, is plentiful. The statistics show that by 2050 there will be a worldwide water shortage. If you travel across Ireland in winter you will see that half the land is under water and unusable. Eventually this drains into our rivers and flows out to the sea. Other parts of the country suffer catastrophic flooding.
     Yes, we need a state-owned water company. It’s not just about water and sewage in our homes: it’s about managing this extremely valuable resource for the benefit of the country as a whole. We need
     (1) to repair all leaks in the system;
     (2) to adopt a national drainage strategy;
     (3) to adopt a water harvesting, storage and purification strategy;
     (4) to establish a state-owned commercial company to market our valuable resource internationally for the common good;
     (5) to force the 52 per cent of businesses that don’t pay their ridiculously low water charges to pay;
     (6) to have a review of water rates for businesses;
     (7) to abolish private water charges.
     Water has to be protected from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party but most of all from privatisation. This is the reason that we must have a referendum to ensure that the public ownership and management of water is enshrined in the constitution; because if we don’t it will be privatised. Maybe not now, but it will be done.
     I said I’d get back to “free trade.” Discussions on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are well under way, and it is expected that an agreement will be reached in nine to twelve months’ time. This is the reason Fine Gael want the charges suspended for nine months: because if we don’t abolish them before this agreement, water will be privatised under this “free trade” deal—free trade for corporations but not for you and me.
     Everything owned by the state will be up for sale under TTIP: education, health, prison service, fire service, transport, electricity, and water, to name but a few.
     I wonder what sort of ethos will be taught in their private schools: equality and fairness, or dog eat dog and I’m all right, Jack?
     We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, from the plough to the stars. Water is a human right. Don’t let the gombeenmen in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sell it to their cronies.

Home page  >  Socialist Voice  >  May 2016  >  Water: Scarce commodity or valuable natural resource?
Baile  >  Socialist Voice  >  Bealtaine 2016  >  Water: Scarce commodity or valuable natural resource?