Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis 2013. Water Charges - Conor Murphy MP
Sinn Féin is opposed, North and South, to the introduction of water charges, the privatisation of water and sewage provision and any double taxation being introduced, North or South, as a method of financing these vital public services.
In the North, in 2007, we inherited the British New Labour Direct Rule creation, Northern Ireland Water, and their plans to double charge households for water and sewage and ultimately to privatise this service.
On my proposal, as Minister for Regional Development, the Executive in Stormont reversed the introduction of household water charges, halted proposals for universal metering and ruled out the privatisation of these services now or in the future.
And they did so on the basis that households in the North are already hard pressed due to the difficult economic circumstances and should not be forced to endure an additional financial burden.
Since 2007 we invested over a billion pounds in water and sewage services, overhauling an unfit sewage system, rolling out a water mains upgrade programme across the North and achieving the highest ever standards of drinking water, all through central government funding. The Executive have recently re-committed to continuing this policy.
Sinn Fein recognise that there are significant challenges across the island in achieving a truly sustainable water and sewage service that is affordable, meets our environmental obligations and delivers a reliable high quality service. However we have proved in government that this can be done without driving struggling households into further poverty.
The legislation introduced by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition this year mirrors that brought forward by the British government for the North in 2007.
The proposal to create a company, Irish Water, as a subsidiary of Bord Gais Éireann which the government intend to sell off gives a clear sense of the privatisation route that is being followed here
In Britain the Tories took utilities that were paid for by the public, invested huge sums of public money to upgrade them, sold them off to their friends and then charged the public to continue to use them. Is this what Fine Gael and Labour intend for the people of this state.
We were told in the North that domestic metering was necessary to conserve scarce water supplies but our research showed that households in Dublin used less water than similar households in London who were paying for their metered water supply.
If you want to conserve water, fix the leaks.
40% of the water supply that is gathered and treated is disappearing into the ground through faulty mains. Invest in that rather than borrowing 300 million Euros to install water meters in people’s homes.
Is this government’s priority extracting more money from families at the behest of the Troika or is it provision of quality services to citizens who already pay for that.
Public services should be paid for through progressive taxation and those services, having been paid for by the people, must be retained in the ownership of the people.
It is not enough for the Labour Party simply to defer their proposals to the other side of next year’s local government elections in order to avoid the wrath of the people. Fine Gael and Labour intend for people in this state to pay three times over for a basic public service.
That is fundamentally unfair on struggling families and Sinn Fein, as we did North of the border, will continue to fight against the imposition of unjust taxation.