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"Arrogant" Commissioner Vella should stop meddling in Ireland's water debate and focus on doing his real job - Lynn Boylan MEP

15 January, 2017 - by Senator Lynn Boylan

Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has issued a withering criticism of what she describes as EU Commissioner Vella's "incessant need to meddle in Ireland's debate on the future of water services.” While telling Mr Vella to “butt out” she advised the EU Environment Commissioner  that he would be "better off focusing his energies on doing his real job."

Ms Boylan was responding to reports in today's media in which Commissioner Vella again signalled his support for a water charging regime.

The poll-topping Dublin MEP said;

"Commissioner Vella’s actions and comments in relation to future of water services in Ireland have, once again, highlighted his complete arrogance and his disdain for the democratic wishes of our citizens. His incessant need to meddle in this debate is symptomatic of all that is wrong with the Europe Union. He needs to butt-out.

“Mr Vella would be better off focusing his energies on doing his real job. He wasn't appointed to continuously interfere in discussions on how Ireland organises its water infrastructure. It is not part of his brief or within his remit.

"He talks about clear disincentives to discourage overuse. The reality is that Irish households are at the lower end of the spectrum of water consumption when compared to their EU counterparts. The installation of meters does not reduce water consumption. Their only positive use is in the detection of leaks, which can be done at district level. International research shows that countries with the highest saturation of water meters are also the highest consumers of water.  The installation, maintenance and rolling out of a billing system connected to water meters is not cost effective. In fact, the money that has been spent on meter installation to date would have been far better used in upgrading the system.

“The legal opinion commissioned by my office clearly states that if Ireland is fulfilling the objectives of the water framework directive, which is to conserve and protect water, then we would be in compliance without domestic charges. Sinn Féin has clearly shown in our election manifesto how we would fund the necessary upgrading of the water infrastructure without the need for regressive domestic water charges. The Expert Group's findings also believed that their proposal would be in compliance.  

"Commissioner Vella and his water unit have been deliberately trying to muddy the waters on this issue. He says he is willing to engage. However, his office denied briefing journalists and releasing parliamentary question responses to journalists before elected representatives saw them. Then when exposed, he refused to release documents under Freedom of Information until I complained to the EU Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly.  His officials then released heavily redacted documents. A second complaint on the redaction is now being investigated by the Ombudsman.

"Commissioner Vella and his water unit claim to be legally neutral when it comes to how EU Member States manage their water supplies, so I would suggest that Commissioner Vella start acting in such a neutral manner.  He has no role in Ireland's water regime.

"Commissioner Vella's interventions have been completely focused on confusing matters. I would suggest that he focus on the work that he should be doing, which is his long overdue legal obligation to respond to the EU Citizens Initiative and the EU Parliament report on the human right to water."

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