A former government minister has laid the blame for the crisis facing the Government over the botched water charge regime with the troika.
Former energy minister Pat Rabbitte said Ireland’s former bailout masters had put constant pressure on the Coalition and this had resulted in the current difficulties facing Irish Water.
His comments came as over 100,000 people were predicted to take part in nationwide protests today in opposition to the charges and the semi-state company.
Mr Rabbitte, who oversaw the setting up of the parent company of Irish Water, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the Coalition understood there was real concern among people about affordability and certainty on charges.
The Labour minister added: “People are very apprehensive after six years of hardship that has affected so many people very badly due to the banking collapse and recession. They’re tired of charges and that mood is being exploited by the same people who gave you the anti-bin charge protests.”
He said this had led to the privatisation of bin charges, people being unable to pay those bills and illegal dumping in some areas.
The Dublin South West TD said: “There is no danger, it is an entire red herring about privatisation of our water services. There won’t be any privatisation of our water services, it is enshrined in law.
“No Government with its head screwed on would seek to privatise something as critical as the water supply.”
But Mr Rabbitte also had strong words for the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the troika who oversaw the terms for Ireland’s bailout. “Here under constant pressure from the troika, the Government sought to have it under way in two years.” He said that timeframe was “too short” and was the “root cause” of some of the difficulties.
But United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett rejected these claims.
He said the troika would have been content if a wealth tax was introduced instead of water charges as long as the needed funds were raised.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan yesterday said the Government wanted Irish Water to continue as a company. But he compared some people’s assertion that water should be free with using energy without costs.
He asked would people turn off their lights if electricity was free.
The Government was examining proposals to give certainty on charges which would be decided in the coming weeks, he said.
Options being considered include an extension of the period where assessed charges apply as meters are installed in homes.
A special allowance or capped charge is also being considered for families, particularly where adult children still live at home.
Today’s protests will involve trade unions, political parties and community groups. Carlow lLiberty Tree, 2pm Cavan lBeside Argos on the Dublin Road, 2pm lMarket Square, 2pm Clare lEnnis, O’Connell Monument, 2pm lShannon, Shannon Town CTR Carpark (behind Kincora)
Starting points for today’s protests against water charges:
Bandon, Main Bridge, 12pm
Clonakilty, Astna Square, 1pm
Cork City, library, Grand Parade, 2pm
Fermoy, Chapel Square, 2pm
Mallow, assemble at the west end of the town, 2pm
Youghal, Barry’s Lane, 1pm
Tralee, Horan Centre, 1pm
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