Green Party leader Eamon Ryan wants legal certainty and agreement to improve the quality of water to be enshrined in the Constitution. This could be done at the same time as the proposed referendum on the ownership of Irish Water, he said.
He warned that there is still a "huge issue" with water quality in Ireland. He told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that he supports water charges for wasteful use. "Everyone has the right to access to clean water.
“We think we should deliver on the Oireachtas committee decision on charging for wasteful water charges, we thing we should proceed with that, we still have a huge issue with water quality across the country, we're still pumping raw sewage into over 40 locations, we're still seeing the overall quality of pristine water falling across the country.
“Water charges are one issue, but there's also issues around our whole farming system.
“We do support the need to pay for water, if there's wasteful use above a certain amount, it should be paid for. That was always our policy, that you get a basic amount, everyone has a right to water, there is a right to water, but if above an every day living use - then you should pay for that.
“There was an agreement in that Oireachtas Committee that we would have a Referendum on the ownership of water, which I believe is important, but when we're doing that referendum I would like to broaden it out that we actually start putting into our Constitution a recognition that we want to protect nature in every aspect, that is the next step I'd like to take, to give legal certainty to the likes of improving water quality by stitching it into our constitution. That would be the next best step. Rather than going back to the whole water charges row.”
Mr Ryan added that the week after next the Oireachtas Committee will be debating the Climate Emergencies Bill which provides for an end to oil and gas exploration in Irish waters.
“One of key recommendations of Citizen's Assembly, is to move the Transport Budget from 2:1 roads to public transport, to 2:1 public transport to roads, we also want to allocate 20 per cent of the overall transport budget to walking and cycling, if we're serious about climate change that's what we need to do.”
Mr Ryan said there is a need for a new national land use plan, “that will have to see us doing a completely different forestry strategy to protect our wetlands and stop cutting our bogs immediately, move to a completely different form of farming, that pays farmers better for looking after nature.
“We still have huge opposition from Minister Michael Creed when I make those arguments in the Dáil, we still have huge opposition, there are still plans to keeping cutting peat until 2027 - we are in a climate and biodiversity emergency, we need to respond to that with emergency measures - we're going to have to change Irish farming for the better and switch on a massive new forestry programme, rich in nature, not just a chopped down forest every 30 years.”