Referendum must be set for public water ownership
Speaking today on the Water Services Bill Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection, John Brady TD reminded the Government that the thousands of people that took to the streets in County Wicklow did not do so for the suspension of water charges, but their abolition.
Deputy Brady said:
“The imposition of the water charges has compounded the hardship on some of the most vulnerable people in our society and has impacted disproportionately on low income households.
“The terms of reference for the Expert Commission need to be expanded to include issues such as how best to avoid water poverty. It has been proven that where water charges have been introduced, water poverty levels have escalated. Almost a quarter of households in England and Wales suffer from water poverty due to water charges imposed on people. Water is a basic human right and not a commodity.
“Many people through intimidation and coercion reluctantly paid water charge bills, effectively paying a third time for such a basic human right. These payments must be repaid to anyone that has paid this tax to date and I’m calling on the Minister to initiate that process with immediate effect.
“It is critically important that our water services remain in public ownership to stop water becoming a commodity for the capitalist profiteers.
“The Minister has said that the government want to keep our water services in public ownership. Frankly, I have no faith in this government in keeping their word on this.
“The only way to ensure that our water services remain in public ownership is to set a date for a referendum and enshrine it in our Constitution. There is no reason why a date cannot be set for that now; we don’t need a commission to report back, if we believe what the government have said on this.
“The terms of reference for the Expert Commission on Domestic Public Water Services are too narrow. It is clear that they have been designed to direct the works of the Commission in a particular way. If it is to have any value, it should be tasked to look at the funding and delivery of all water and sanitation services. This should include an examination of what is the best model for delivering high quality water services on the basis of need and not ability to pay.”