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The ‘Frankenstein’s monster that is Irish Water will remain a spectre on the Irish landscape for the foreseeable future.
Protests, non-payment of charges, and imprisonments have all been propagated by the Government’s singular insistence on pushing ahead with its creation without much apparent regard for — or realisation of — the true nature of the beast it has brought to life.
Like other such political mutations of the past two decades, the utility will limp on and modify itself — surviving probes, tribunals and inquiries, eventually — but its long-term future will largely depend on whether or not it has a new master to answer to after the next election.
Before that can be addressed, we are where we are.
Protests and campaigning will continue, and some will profit from the vulnerability of people and make it an electoral virtue, but that will not change the reality.
In this context of Irish Water continuing to operate for another year at least, there is still room for creativity.
I would suggest a different approach to the water charges: reform of the Universal Social Charge and a review of pressures on local government might be the starting points.
Such approaches could include:
• De-commissioning of domestic water meters. They should not be used for quantifying water usage. They should, instead, be deployed to gauge leakages and breakages. This would inform the priorities for infrastructural investment. Meters could also help to assess the nature of how we use (and misuse) water.
• Re-assignment of responsibility for water provision (including staff) to local authorities, and the use of the newly formed company structures to direct the investment programme for the councils
• The introduction of three tiers of yearly water payments, not based on usage charges, to be invested directly in the public water system....€52, €104 and €156 payments (€1, €2 and €3 per week), depending on employment and income status; payments to be taken from existing USC payments.
• Water-charge payments also need to be integrated into the proposed rent increase for local authority housing tenants (it will also be necessary to stop the ridiculous practice of imposing LPT on local authorities for their own housing stock, which is, effectively, the Government taking back some of the housing funding it had previously allocated).
Cllr Mick Finn
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