Coalition TDs back referendum to ensure Irish Water remains in public ownership

Several Government TDs have backed calls for a referendum to be held to ensure Irish Water remains in public ownership ahead of further water charge protests planned for this week.

Labour TDs Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Ciaran Lynch, Michael McNamara, and Emmet Stagg all signed the Siptu petition yesterday, which calls for a public vote to ensure the utility is never privatised.

Ciaran Lynch
Ciaran Lynch

The Right2Water campaign also announced plans for marches and protests this coming Saturday, which will take place in 40 locations.

Independent and Sinn Féin TDs yesterday backed calls for any general election candidates to pledge to scrap water charges if they enter government. Most protests on the weekend, which are being declared ‘family-friendly’ by organisers, will take place between 11am and 2pm. A list of all the regional and city marches can be found on ww.right2water.ie.

Anti-water charge TDs yesterday said they will still call for the abolishment of all domestic water charges. The outgoing Government has committed to keeping set charges in place until 2018, but these will not be based on usage by homeowners.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said:”We are against domestic water charges, full stop.”

Richard Boyd Barrett
Richard Boyd Barrett

He said there was already a move to privatise Irish Water by “stealth” and that 25 private companies were being paid by the public utility to supply services, including maintenance operations.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy also backed demands for a referendum on asking voters to guarantee that Irish Water remains in public ownership. Article 10 of the Constitution deals with ownership of natural resources. Referendum proponents, including the Greens, want to amend this to block water privatisation.

Catherine Murphy
Catherine Murphy

The Coalition last year, for its revised water charges bill, legislated so a future government “shall” hold a non-binding plebiscite should the issue of privatisation arise. However, it was admitted by Environment Minister Alan Kelly then that this could be reneged on.

Siptu officials yesterday marched outside the Dail calling for water services to be returned to local authorities and warning against any possibility of Irish Water being privatised.

TDs from across parties signed a petition calling for a referendum on ensuring that Irish Water remains in public ownership. Overall, 30 TDs signed the Siptu petition, including from Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, the Social Democrats, Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit and Independents.

The Government politicians were from the Labour party and included junior justice minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, , who recently told the Irish Examiner that a public convention should be held on examining the issue of such a vote.

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