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Vella’s political interference “highly inappropriate” Eoin Ó Broin TD

19 January, 2017 - by Eoin Ó Broin TD

Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on water Eoin Ó Broin has sharply criticised Commissioner Vella for his continuing political interference in the water charges debate in Ireland. Deputy Ó Broin was commenting on a letter the Commissioner sent to Minister Coveney, in which Commissioner Vella appears to advocate a high cost water charging regime.

Ó Broin said:

“In the letter to Minister Coveney Commissioner Vella makes three controversial recommendations. These include a cost recovery mechanism, a charge for excessive or wasteful use of water and that the metering programme should continue in order to facilitate this. This opinion offered by Commissioner Vella can only be described as political meddling at a time when a cross party committee is debating the future of the domestic water charges.”

“The Commissioner’s assertion that the recovery of costs must meet the serious needs for maintenance and investment clearly means a dramatic increase in water charges. Irish Water has already committed to investing €5.5 billion up to 2021 and has said that a total of ten billion capital investment is required to bring water and sanitation in line with EU standards. The logic of the Commissioner’s comments clearly means that any water charging regime would have to make a greater contribution to the funding of the water systems which would mean a higher water charge than has been the case to date.

“Commissioner Vella’s assertion that the charge for excessive or wasteful water use should be dissuasive is code for punitive. Nowhere in his correspondence to the Minster does the Commissioner refer to the needs of families or households that may have additional water requirements  due to family size or medical reasons.  This is a clear attempt by the Commissioner to ensure that if an excess waste water charge is introduced the charge itself would be excessive.

“As for the question of metering, Irish Water has already re-profiled the excess water meter funding and it will be used to upgrade the water infrastructure. Sinn Féin called for this in our Alternative Budget for 2017 and we welcome moves by Irish Water to do this. Commissioner Vella has no right under the water framework directive to try to dictate this level of detail as to how a member state manages its domestic water supply.

"The EU Commissioner and his staff in earlier correspondence to MEPS on the issue of domestic water charges said that they couldn’t comment until they had received Ireland’s second river basin management plan and had time to assess its implementation. This plan is currently being drafted and is due for submission to the Commission in 2018. Sinn Féin firmly believes you can meet the environmental requirements of the water framework directive without the introduction of domestic water charges and we will be making a submission to the Department as to how you would achieve this under the Second River Basin Management Plan. “

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