Bill aims to keep water public

Labour has moved to have it enshrined in the Constitution that Irish Water and other public utilities be kept in public ownership.

The party has published a bill proposing a referendum be held to amend the Constitution to ensure certain utilities remain in public hands.

Former minister for public expenditure Brendan Howlin said Labour had prevented the privatisation of a number of entities while in government, but this had been forgotten.

He said Fine Gael had a “privatisation agenda” which Labour opposed.

“The things you stop happening are never noticed but it was the Labour Party that really stopped that agenda,” he said.

Joan Burton said the new Government would not provide the same protection to public utilities as the previous administration.

She said: “As far as Labour is concerned, the provision of water could never, and should never be something that can be outsourced to the private sector.

“I believe that if push comes to shove, the current Government would take a very different view on the ownership of indeed potential sale of key state assets and state commercial companies.”

Publishing the bill, Labour TD Willie Penrose said: “If the amendment is approved at a referendum, it will not be possible for the Oireachtas to pass legislation to approve the privatisation of the companies that own our gas or electricity transmission and distribution networks or the public water supply and waste water treatment infrastructure.”

He said Labour had never been given “any of the credits” for stopping Fine Gael privatisations.

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