December 2016        

Victory is within our grasp

Eugene McCartan

The Government’s latest quango, the Expert Commission on Domestic Public Water Services, has published its report on the future provision of water.
     The first thing that needs to be said is that the people’s struggle and resistance against water charges has come a long way.
     Working people also need to remember when analysing this report that it was set up to produce the required result. The fact that the report states that it was necessary to ensure public ownership of water shows that it had to acknowledge this vital and central demand raised by the people who took to the streets in their tens of thousands.
     This is indeed an important step and must become a renewed rallying-point to ensure that the people get the opportunity to have a referendum on public ownership.
     Some of the main points in the report:
• People already pay for their water through taxes, and “water funded through general taxation is not free but paid for by the taxpayer.”
• Adequate clean water for living should not be determined by a person’s ability to pay.
• Ireland has one of the highest rates of water availability in the world, with availability per person four times higher than in France.
• Irish people are at the “lower end of the spectrum” when it comes to comparing water usage with other European countries.
• Irish people use between 15 and 25 per cent less water than those living within the British state, where there have been water charges since 1989.
• Commercial companies are not paying their water bills, with almost half refusing to pay.
• The enforcement of comprehensive commercial water charges should reduce dependence on general taxation.
• No “abstraction charges” for our water are imposed on private companies, such as Ballygowan (Britvic), which pay nothing when they bottle our natural spring water for profit.
• The water charges were intended to reduce household consumption by a mere 6 per cent, yet the system leaks 41 per cent of all treated water.
     The big lie about water wastage is just that—a lie—as the commission itself acknowledges that we use less water per person than our neighbours in Britain.
     Farming and industry are the two largest users of water. Households use 22 per cent, but under the suspended water charges we would have been paying 70 per cent of the total cost. This would have been a case of working people once again subsidising industry by stealth.
     The establishment media jumped on the people who “waste water,” saying they should be penalised for that. This was nothing more than the old divide-and-rule trick, to set people arguing among and against each other. If you take their figure as accurate you only have to pose the 41 per cent wastage through unrepaired leaks against a possible 6 or 7 per cent domestic wastage.
     The arguments about waste and the “reasonable level of usage” are only the pretext for introducing charges by the back door. We know from the experience of the bin charges that the waivers disappear very quickly once they have instituted any form of charges.
     Working people need to keep the politicians’ feet to the fire and force them to give us a referendum on public ownership. People should continue not to pay and to oppose meters being installed.
     We have them on the back foot. We need to keep them there. Victory is within our grasp.

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