This article is based on a powerful speech by Mick Wallace, TD in Dáil Éireann, Nov. 9, 2016, debating 'Thirty Five Amendment to the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) Bill.'
Buncrana Together is publishing it below, verbatim, since we believe it is one of the most important speeches that we have heard.
It is an article that we intended to do as a follow up to 'The battle of Irish Water, another reason to heed protesters'. However, we did not get around to writing it. The subject matter is complex. It is a tangled web of interconnecting elements encompassing multi-national corporations, vast amounts of money, Government collusion and European bureaucracy. It is a story of government agencies and public bodies, willingly or unwittingly, succumbing to the guile of international and national lobbying in the quest for power and wealth. It is a story that begs more investigation by impartial experienced journalists.
In short it is a story of corporate imperialism and greed.
In this centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising, Mr Wallace's words are poignant and somewhat ironic. On the one hand it is a year to celebrate and honour the men and women of 1916 and all those who fought against and suffered oppression, plunder and conquest. However, one hundred years later we have the situation where our country is being plundered by multinational corporations aided by the Irish Government, carving up our natural resources and oppressing the majority of Irish people.
The importance of getting rid of the Irish Water Ltd quango can not be understated. Irish Water is the nucleus of this corporate takeover. We would like to add RPS to Mr Wallace's list, This is a company that is at the heart of the Irish malaise. RPS describes itself as 'Ireland’s leading planning, design, engineering, environmental and communications services consultancy'.
This is no small boast. In fact it is true. For the past thirty years this company has been working hard to get into a position where it is the leading adviser to the Government in Ireland. It consults and lobbies every planning authority in Ireland. It has influence over the country's architects and engineers, technical colleges and universities, education in general.
Unless we get rid of Irish Water, it might as well be privatised
Deputy Wallace: "Like most people in Ireland, I do not think the water service should be privatised, but, sadly, unless we get rid of Irish Water, it might as well be privatised because that is where we are. For want of a better term, Irish Water is another version of the HSE and literally outsourcing just about anything it has on its table. It is carving up the country.
We have Aecom in the Dublin area, EPS in the Cork area, Veolia in Kilkenny and Glan Agua in Galway. Between the four of them, they are literally taking over water provision in Ireland.
They are designing, constructing and operating facilities. Of course, the money is to be made in operating facilities, which I am sure is not news to the Minister. If people are paying through the Government, it will cost a fortune now that we are allowing Irish Water, a version of the HSE, to arrange how water and wastewater services are organised in Ireland. There are huge problems.
Some of the companies are incredibly big and will do what they like. I will mention one of them. Veolia has just won a 20-year design, build and operate contract with Irish Water which includes an €18.4 million upgrade of wastewater infrastructure in County Donegal. In May it won a 27-month design and build contract in Cavan. The water treatment plant in Athy, County Kildare is operated by it under a 20-year design, build and operate contract. It was the operator of Ireland's largest biomass power plant in Killala, County Mayo. It was to meet the total biomass fuel requirement in the vicinity, with biomass to be brought from the United States, landed at Dublin Port and transported by road across the country. The project has run into the sand because it does not make any sense.
I would like to see some transparency on how the whole thing was set up. Was there a tender process? It was a gift to foreign corporations from the State which is about to produce dirty energy, the production of which will be subsidised by the people of Ireland. It was to be expensive. US investors were guaranteed a price well above the level in the wholesale market available to unsubsidised generators.
What a disaster we have have at Ringsend. Celtic Anglian Water, a subsidiary of Anglian Water in the United Kingdom, is being allowed to print money because of its contracts and seemingly Irish Water can do nothing about it. Celtic Anglian Water has Irish Water over a barrel and can charge whatever it likes. There is mayhem. The Minister should take a close look at what is happening in Ringsend. I would like him to come back and tell us that everything is grand because I have information from inside the industry that things are far from it. There are huge problems.
Before Irish Water was established, we had the local authorities taking the same route. What Irish Water amounts to is a red tape version of what we had in place around the countryside with several layers on top. Bureaucracy has flourished under Irish Water which has increased the amount of red tape no end. The Minister should tell me I am wrong. Is Irish Water getting huge companies to design, build and operate plants and giving them 20 to 25-year contracts to complete the project?
We are giving them powers that will be almost uncontrollable in the years to come similar to the powers Celtic Anglian Water has in Ringsend.
Veolia which is not even the biggest in the country but which will probably become the biggest because it will gobble up some of the others in the near future is involved in the energy and transport sectors.
It had to sell off its transport operation in Israel where it was introducing transport measures in the Occupied Territories. Palestinians, however, were not even allowed to use the transport system. Veolia had received so much bad publicity that it had to pull out of it. It is all over the shop in the United States where it has been thrown out of several cities for bad practice and introducing cost-cutting measures at the cost of quality and because of health concerns. Somebody in the United States said recently that if one wanted to describe what Veolia got up to, it would come in, rape one's water company and leave with money bags. It is to take over water services in this country unless we get rid of Irish Water and the Government takes a direct role in it. Inserting this measure in the Constitution will be a waste of time if we go down this route."