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Water charges in any guise ‘unacceptable’ – McDonald

30 November, 2016 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil this afternoon, has said that water charges through the front door or through the backdoor are “unacceptable”.

While welcoming some of the recommendations of the Expert Commission, she rejected the proposal for a charge on so-called ‘excessive’ waste usage, saying it would “inevitably lead to the introduction of across the board water charges in the future”.

Teachta McDonald said:

“Yesterday evening, we received the long awaited report of the so-called Expert Commission on the future of water charges. I welcome aspects of it, particularly its call for constitutional protection to keep our water services in public ownership. Sinn Féin has long argued for this.

“I also welcome the Commission’s recognition that the best way to pay for general domestic water usage is through general taxation. Sinn Féin has long argued that case too.

“The report also rightly recommends fair treatment for those in group water schemes and those who paid water charges. In Sinn Féin’s view, this means no domestic charge for those on group water schemes or those with their own water source and involves refunding those who have paid water charges to date.

“However, we do not support the Commission’s proposal of a charge on so-called ‘excessive’ use. This is just a re-hash of the original Fianna Fáil-Green Party proposal devised in 2009, and would inevitably lead to the introduction of across the board water charges in the future; that’s the reality.

“A low charge now to soften the blow, before hiking up charges in the future.

“Given Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s track record on water charges, how could anyone trust them not to increase water charges? 

“In any case, the report acknowledges that determining what ‘excessive’ water usage is would be extremely difficult to calculate, and it’s highly likely that the cost of administering and enforcing such a scheme would be greater than the revenue it might generate.

“So let’s be clear; no water charges through the front door, or through the backdoor. That is what citizens have demanded.

“The government must also clarify, in light of Simon Coveney’s comments this morning, is it their intention to pursue those who did not, or who could not, pay unjust charges? And will that be through the courts, or through the Revenue Commissioners or through deductions from social welfare payments?

“They must also act to enshrine water services in public ownership by committing to a referendum on the matter.” 

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