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Sinn Féin raise Water Charge concernswith Equality Commission

19 September, 2003

Former Chair of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, Mid Ulster representative Cllr Francie Molloy has said that imposing Water Charges will have huge equality implications.

Cllr Molloy said:

"Sinn Féin have consistently voiced our opposition to Water Charges. They are nothing less than a form of hidden taxation except that unlike general taxation the amount that people will be forced to pay will not be linked to their ability to pay.

"Imposing Water Charges will have huge equality implications. The proposed charges will fall outside the rate rebate system ˆ there is no relief for low-income households in any system of charging in any of the options in the consultation.

"Sinn Féin has raised these concerns with the Equality Commission yesterday to ensure that it is focused on the multiple areas of inequality and hardship that will arise if this is imposed.

"The arguments put forward by British NIO Ministers fail to stack up. There is nothing in their case that provides any guarantee that a Water Tax will be anything other than an unfair tax or that there will be improvements in Water Services. None of the options in the consultation places any onus on the Water Services to reduce the level of water wastage.

"We believe that the introduction of such charges has more to do with British Treasury insistence on further taxation than EU directives or misleading comparisons with the British level of rates.

"After 30 years of under investment our water and sewerage services here are drastically underdeveloped and are incapable of meeting international and European health and safety standards. The result is that we now require a major investment in our infrastructure.

"As a republican I personally have real difficulties with a British government forcing Irish people to pay for an Irish resource. People here are being expected to pay for decades of neglect on the part of successive direct rule administrations, which has resulted in the unacceptable deterioration of a critical service." ENDS

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