PAUL MILLS: Paul Mills: The ‘who will pay for our water’ furore rumbles on

The water charge issue confirms that Irish streets are very long indeed.

Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin must wonder on occasions if the water charges issue will ever go away.

They kick the can up the street and before they know they’re at the end of the street again.

At times, perhaps they intone, a little like Henry II commenting on his problems with Thomas Becket, “who will rid me of these water charges” rather than “this meddlesome priest”.

The problem for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is they brought this problem on themselves.

Sure the reaction is partly a result of people’s issue with paying for something they believe was already included in the taxes they pay.

However, the main genesis of the water charge issue is how it was done coupled with when it was done.

In an nutshell, the establishment was focused on the structure of how it would be managed rather than determining and rationalising exactly what had to be done and what was needed to be done and how it was going to be done.

Its raison d’être seemed to be to be focused on terms and conditions of employment rather than what we are now being told.

Issues like conservation of a precious resource, the repair of leaks and the elimination of 47% wastage, the provision of clean water and effective effluent treatment strategies seemed like afterthoughts.

Issues like the fact that the whole issue of the possible future privatisation of the utility was dealt with in a way that gave nobody any confidence only made matters worse.

For some reason, Irish Water thought that by ignoring comments on privatisation would make people believe that it wasn’t a hot political issue.

Politicians, and latterly, their hired guns in Irish Water caused the problem from the way they tried to introduce charges this time around.

When it became clear that it was not going to be a shoo-in, instead of dealing with the issue they persisted and tried to drive it through.

It’s an issue that has people marching up and down the country for over five years.

By and large people’s objections to paying these charges has just not gone away.

Apparently, a majority of people paid up, in full or partly. That fact is now being used as an argument that charges had been accepted.

Fear of being fined rather than acceptance would be far closer to the truth. However, the bottom line is that water and sewage treatment must be paid for.

Water treatment, water distribution, the sanitary network and effluent treatment operations and the maintenance of those entities all cost a lot of money. To ignore this is to have more leaks, undrinkable water and sewage pouring into our rivers and onto our beaches.

We know only two well that as a nation we are spending beyond our means. We know that each and every year there are major problems in every budget, Government parties try to please everyone rather than put money where it needs to go.

Those who make the least noise. They include the sick, the elderly, the disabled and those who generally need support. They are not seen as a voting bloc.

Kicking the can up the road and deferring repairs or new infrastructure are easy options when others are politically sensitive for professional politicians.

Many believe that we already pay through our taxes.

Yet, we know that the amount of overall revenue obtained each year is not enough to satisfy all of the demands on that money.

Taking more money in taxes each and every year, charging us more and more, whilst we continue to have some of the best-paid public employees in Europe, is not sustainable.

Now it’s been suggested that taxes should increase to cover water charges.

Why might they believe that this will be any more acceptable than direct water charges?

Enda and his colleagues need to grow a pair and be the statesmen they think they are, instead of being legends in their own lunchtime.


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