The following is by Maria Bennett, a Guest Writer. For our overseas readers, who may not be too familiar with her subject matter, this issue in the Republic of Ireland, is one that may yet bring down an entire Government, upon arrival of Polling Day. It is a topic that draws immense passions on either side of the debate. Hundreds of thousands of Irish Citizens have taken to the streets in the last months to protest “The Water Charges” and it is expected even more will voice their concern at the ballot box. The ‘Troika’ as mentioned in Bennett’s article, are the following entities who have united in forcing extreme austerity upon certain nations of the European Union: The I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund), E.C.B (European Central Bank) and E.C. (European Commission).
As part of the 85 Billion Euro Bank Debt that was foisted upon the regular people of Ireland in 2010, by the E.U.- I.M.F. Bailout, the I.M.F. stated that ‘Water Charges’ had to be introduced upon us here in the Republic of Ireland. Introduced? We were already paying for water in our general taxes since 1996. Five percent extra on our car tax and two percent more on V.A.T. Did no one bother to tell the Troika? It was also stated that water charges would be introduced by 2012 and that responsibility for water was to be transferred from 34 Local Authorities to the new water utility: Irish Water.
Now, I’ve no problem paying for water, in fact I’m quite a ‘Greenie’ in that I hate to see water wasted. However I smelled a rat when Irish Water was established as a Semi-State body. Why? Unlike electricity and gas, water is not a commodity. We can manage without gas and electricity but not without water. Why not establish it as a State Entity, where the people would own this precious natural resource?
Then the penny dropped. Water is the new oil ! International Banks and elitist multi-billionaires were buying up water utilities all over the world. In 2008, Goldman Sachs labeled water ‘The Petroleum for the next Century.’ Then gigantic Pension Funds started jumping on the bandwagon and commenced investing in water companies.
So now we have the Irish Government bowing to their Troika masters and privatizing our water. The Water Services Act was rushed through the Dail (Irish Parliament) at breakneck speed in July 2013. Then on the 19th.December of the same year, Irish Water documentation was swiftly moved through all legislative stages of the Dail in just over four hours, amid protest from Opposition Parties.
The Irish Government (a Coalition of the Fine Gael and Labour parties) has tried to reassure us that Irish Water is merely a semi-private company; that we should not worry as they won’t totally privatize it. Well, I for one, do not believe them. At the Government’s current amazing rate of adding legislation or amending existing legislation to take more money from us, it makes me think that there must be something in it for someone, other than the Irish people.
As we have now established the super quango that is Irish Water, let us just reflect on it awhile. The fixed assets transferred to this semi-private company from the Water Divisions of Local Authorities are estimated to be 11.25 Billion Euro. By the year 2016 it is estimated that 3.7 Billion Euros will have come out of our taxes and pension reserve funds and given to Irish Water. This Government, in my opinion, is determined to leave no funds for our retirements. Think about that !
We’ve all read about the cronyism within Irish Water. Top staff to be paid over 3 million annually in salaries. It is reported that 30 staff members earn over 100,000 Euros a year and that almost 100 staff could earn 15 % of their respective salaries in pay-related bonuses. Nine senior executives receive bonus health insurance, costing us over 20,000 Euros annually. These and other contentious issues (for the Irish people) within Irish Water have arisen. Recently, Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway, in defending the establishment of Irish Water, actually said that ‘Water doesn’t fall from the sky.’ Yes, he did !
This quango has to be abolished. It is leaking our Pension Reserves dry. The funds that have been drained from our taxes to date, should have been used to update our tired and worn-out water supply.
Water does fall from the sky, but our hard-earned money goes down that slippery drain.
Editor’s note: Maria Bennett is a Trade Union activist and in her own words “A concerned Irish citizen.” She currently resides in south Co. Dublin, Ireland.