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Peadar Toibín- Árd Fhéis Speech- Water Charges

22 April, 2016


During the elections I met a pensioner who had recently had her oil tank stolen. To protect herself from the biting cold she had to save up to purchase a more oil.

To do this she had to cut back on meals. Every day she woke at midday to skip breakfast and every evening she went down to her daughter’s house to have her dinner.

Fine Gael and Labour believe that this woman, who lives on the edge of the breadline should pay water charges. Her words to me were, I’ve worked all my life and yet I cannot survive. How can they do this to me?

Lets be clear from the outset Sinn Fein want a functioning Water Distribution system in this state. In budgetary terms no other political party has set aside as much as Sinn Féin for the construction and maintenance of a water infrastructure.  

Ireland has one of the fast growing populations in Europe, we have a growing economy and yet, under this government the second lowest infrastructural spend in Europe. Sinn Féin will change this. Sinn Féin is the party of infrastructural investment. The economic future of the Irish people depends this.

Investment must come out of the pockets of the Irish people. In the government’s plan, the cost citizen is borne irrespective of income. In the government’s plan the lower you earnings the higher the proportion of your income will be spent on water charges. In the government’s plan on a daily basis this blind tax pushes families into the vicious cycle of poverty.

In Sinn Féin’s plan, instead of gifting billions of euro through USC cuts to the highest earners we will invest this money in our infrastructure. We will source this necessary investment on the basis of progressive taxation, a person’s ability to pay.  

Sinn Féin are the only party in Ireland north and south who have actually stopped Water Charges being introduced and through the right to water campaign and through our mandate we will stop water charges again.

Irish Water represents all that is wrong with FG and Labour. They attack low and middle income earners while they stumble from one political fiasco to the next.  

But its ok. We live in a democracy. And the people of this state returned a majority of TDs that promised to rid us of this tax. The Dáil has a clear mandate to scrap Water Charges. It could so, today if it wanted.

Logically we in Sinn Féin have utilised every opportunity possible to simply get the dáil to action this mandate. Again today we along with others on the progressive left we tabled a simple motion to affect the democratic wishes of the people.

Alas a chairde there is a problem Flip Flop Fianna Fáil are colluding with Fine Gael and Labour and put the Dáil into Democratic lock down. They have said no decisions can be made as there is no precedent. But surely the word reform means to innovate beyond precedent.

The truth is Fianna Fáil is negotiating a programme for government to reinstate Enda as Taoiseach. FF are negotiating a coalition in everything but name.  Míchael Martin is not writing a political blank cheque in the vein of the Tallaght strategy. Enda’s decisions will be Mícheál’s decisions.

This a chairde is why the Dáil is in lock down and being prevented from acting on Irish Water. Flip Flop Fianna Fáil need wriggle room.

I would like, if I can, to offer some helpful advice to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as they negotiate this weekend. The Irish people will not be sold a pup. The catalyst for the largest people power movement that this state has seen in generations will not accept anything less than Water delivered on the basis of need, by a publically owned utility and paid for through progressive taxation. We in Sinn Féin will make sure of that. 

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