Papers dating from 2010 - the last year of Brian Cowen's government - give an insight into the Fianna Fáil/Greens coalition's plans to introduce domestic water metering.
The coalition agreed at Cabinet on 15 September 2010 to establish a new water agency and draft new legislation allowing for domestic water meters - some two months before Ireland entered the Troika bailout.
see link below for the full article dated Oct, 2015
The 2007-2011 government also proposed the establishment of a new water agency to manage and deliver the metering programme, and manage the procurement process for the installation, billing and collection services.
"Local Authorities would continue to be responsible for the direct provision of water and waste water treatment services," stated a Department of the Environment memo.
It was anticipated that the new "national water agency" would keep directly employed staff to a minimum and outsource more labour intensive functions. It would directly employ around 25 personnel with estimated annual costs of €4m per annum.
There was a furore in July 2010 that the government had lost touch with the public over images of "ministerial Mercs" driving ministers to a special cabinet meeting in Farmleigh House to discuss budget cuts.
Cabinet papers, released under the Freedom of Information Act 2014, show that "water metering for domestic connections" was scheduled for debate at Farmleigh on 26 July 2010 but it was deferred until September.
The issue was discussed by government at the Cabinet meetings on 8 September and 15 September 2010.
A series of previously confidential government memos show that Fianna Fáil ministers Brian Lenihan (Finance), Mary Hanafin (Tourism, Culture & Sport), Brendan Smith (Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), Noel Dempsey (Transport) and Batt O'Keefe (Enterprise, Trade & Innovation) along with Green Party ministers Eamon Ryan (Communications, Energy & Natural Resources) and John Gormley (Environment) were in favour of introducing a domestic water metering programme.
A water referendum
The documents relating to the domestic water metering proposals show that then minister for the environment, John Gormley, initially sought a referendum so that the Constitution could be changed to further protect against the privitisation of water in the future.
But this proposal was "deleted" from a later Cabinet memorandum after observations were received, "particularly those of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources".
Minister Eamon Ryan's department highlighted "the complexities involved" and suggested that any amendment to the Constitution "could prove contentious and time-consuming".
Source: for full article see buncranatogether.com/home/2015/10/19/cabinet-papers-the-cowen-governments-water-files