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Sinn Féin skeptical about Government's position on water charges

6 October, 2004

Speaking during the course of the debate on the Water Services Bill last night, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD, said while welcoming the Bill he remained "skeptical" about the Government's stated position that they would not introduce Water Charges.

Deputy Morgan said, "I welcome the introduction of the water service legislation. I also welcome the measures included in the Bill which seeks to improve the regulation of the group water schemes.

"I am aware that the former Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Marin Cullen stated in the Seanad that it was not the Government's intention to bring in water charges nor was the Water Services Bill intended to facilitate the privatisation of water services. However, given the governments record on promises we can be forgiven for being skeptical particularly given that the Bill contains measures specifically related to meters.

"Sinn Féin is opposed to the introduction of water charges. We view it as a regressive stealth tax. Given that we oppose direct charges for domestic rates, we cannot support proposals for metering of domestic water supplies. We are firmly of the view that everyone has the right to an adequate supply of safe, clean water as a basic entitlement. Ability to access safe clean water cannot be based on a person's ability to pay for it. We believe the provision of water services is a key responsibility of the state and are fundamentally opposed to the privatisation of water services. We would point to the disastrous record of privatisation of water services in other states."

In relation to group water schemes the County Louth TD said, "Water quality in this state remains a problem. I welcome the provision in Part 6 of the Bill that provides for the introduction of a system of licensing for group water schemes. This is particularly important in the light of the fact that the EPA reported in February of this year that the overall quality of drinking water supplied by group water schemes remained unsatisfactory. Worryingly that report also found that some public water supplies consistently breach standards such as aluminium and nitrates." ENDS

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