Water charges commission boss Joe O’Toole: ‘I like a bit of mischief and argumentation’

Water charges commission boss Joe O’Toole: ‘I like a bit of mischief and argumentation’

The chairman of the expert commission on water charges Joe O’Toole has said he finds it extraordinary that left-wing politicians seem to oppose the ‘polluter pays’ principal when it comes to water charges.

Below are the highlights of an interview given by Joe O’Toole to Irish Examiner Political Correspondent Juno McEnroe, which has fuelled calls for him to resign immediately.

ON LEFT WING POLITICIANS

Q: Do you have an opinion of the ‘polluters pay’ principle?

A: “I do that’s it. I find it extraordinary that people who present themselves as being left wing politicians are opposed to things like property tax, are opposed to polluter pays, are of a view that if you have two or three cars and a swimming pool, that you should be paying the same water tax as somebody next door.”

“I cannot understand how anybody can claim that that is a left wing view or a socialist view of the world, it just isn’t.

Q: Are the likes of Paul Murphy wrong when it comes to that issue?

A: “Completely and utterly wrong on the issue, that it is fair in society that people with three cars and a swimming pool pay the same water tax as someone, a person who is barely struggling on a minimum wage. It’s nonsense.”

ON HOUSEHOLDS PAYING WATER TAXES

Q: You say you have to look at [people opposed to water taxes], what do you mean by that?

“In a caring society like our own, we should ensure that people would get enough water to live on adequately on the basis of not having to pay additional for that. That is a community looking after itself, from that point on, of course people should pay.”

ON GETTING THE JOB

Q: Why did you take the job?

A: “I’ve never been risk adverse, I like a bit of mischief and I like a bit of argumentation. I don’t sleep at night unless I have a good argument during the day.

“There was a certain incompleteness in the argumentation that I heard about this whole issue which I heard over the last year.

“Myself and Simon [Coveney] sat beside each other for five years or longer on the energy committee and climate change committee in the parliament before last. So we would know each other. Simon and myself sat on interview boards together on various appointments and things. I would know Simon quite well. But I never, ever discussed the water issue with him, ever.”

Paul Murphy
Paul Murphy

ON PRIVATE INVESTORS BUYING INTO IRISH WATER

Q: How will the commission examine funding Irish Water while keeping the utility as a public owned service?

A: “There is a process of funding called securitisation…others, you simply say we argue we are a good risk, we can pay our way, we pay back and simply try and convince somebody to try and convince somebody to buy an Irish Water bond or whatever.

“It has to happen, Irish Water has to get money, it can’t get it from the Government because that would be in breach of the whole European ideal in that situation. That’s going to be a huge, huge problem.

“There are bundles of money in this country at the moment trying to find a home. The question is whether the people with those bundles of money would be risk adverse on this issue. I believe that we have to create certainty and security.”

ON REVENUE COLLECTING THE CHARGE

Q: Will you ask Revenue about whether they can collect it or not, it’s a model used abroad?

A: “It’s a model that has been used elsewhere, I think it has been used in Scotland or the Netherlands.

“There’s the property tax, the waste tax, the water tax, your television licence…There may well be a way that we can fold or should consider folding some of the charges together or.

“I would like to explore with Revenue are what are the various options.

Q: With the basis of them taking over the collection?

A: “That may well be an option to be considered. I couldn’t at any stage now anticipate now that’s that where it would go.

“The whole reason is to learn how you collect money, what are the difficulties in collecting money, what are the most efficient ways in collecting money, is this something that could be tied in with some other charge or another.”

READ MORE: Water Commission Chairman accused of being biased in favour of water charges

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