Brendan Young, councillor for Kildare North, calls for the boycott campaign against Irish Water to be stepped up. His statement is in response to Irish Water's recent legal threat that water charges can not be abolished. He sees this as a last ditch effort to keep Irish Water alive by 'undemocratic legalistic means'.
Brendan Young's Statement Mar 30, 2016
"Recent reports are saying that neither water charges nor Irish Water can be abolished because the EU says so – according to the opinion of two barristers who were undoubtedly paid a lot of money by Ervia (IW parent company) to give their opinion. My opinion is that IW management know that there is a very real prospect of their jobs going down the plug hole. This is a last-ditch attempt to keep IW alive – undoubtedly with the support of FG – by undemocratic legalistic means: 70% of the recently-elected TD's said they oppose this water charge.
Whatever the opinion of barristers, the political reality is that prior to the election nearly 50% were not paying – and that number has increased, perhaps close to 60%. People who did not pay are standing firm; and those who did pay are stopping: why throw more money away if the charge is being scrapped?
It is non-payment that has made water charges a political issue. If a FG government tries to retain the charge and gives IW the green light next Spring to try to take up to 700,000 non-payers to court, individually, to get attachment to earnings, there will be uproar and the government could fall over it. FG and FF know this. FF also know that if they go back on their promise to postpone the charge, or support court cases to enforce it, they would be hammered at a time when they are jockeying with FG to be the the dominant party of the rich while simultaneously trying to compete for working class support against SF and the Left.
So FF want to diffuse the non-payment movement and are calling for people to pay while the charge remains in place. They are also saying they are not legally bound to impose the charge and will postpone it. They may be hoping that the movement will dissipate and the charge can be revived in a few years' time.
We cannot rely on FF to abolish water charges. Nor should we entrust the decision on how to manage our water system to an 'independent commission' as proposed by SF's Eoin O'Broin. Who would establish such a commission? What does 'independent' mean in this instance?
Once the charge has been dropped and there is a commitment to fund water from direct taxation we can start discussing how to co-ordinate the upgrade and management of the service. My response to comments on the EU's Water Directive is this: there is no 'established', accepted procedure for charging for water in Ireland; and I reject the EU's regressive proposal of individually charging for essential services such as water – the trajectory of which is privatisation of profitable parts (which TTIP would make much worse).
IW was set up to charge domestic users for water – one of the bank-bailout charges. It has to go. The FF plan to postpone this charge and re-introduce something similar in a few years is unacceptable. The only way to ensure that it's abolished is to make it unworkable by not paying. In the short term, we need to begin planning the organisation of a big demonstration in support of non-payment and abolition before the discussions on the formation of a government are concluded."
We asked Brendan to elaborate on what he meant by 'green light next Spring to try to take up to 700,000 non-payers to court' and about levies this year. He replied
"A penalty of €60 for a multi person household and €30 for a single person household applies after a year of non payment. IW will presumably add this to outstanding bills. No court case is needed to levy the penalty. Anyone who is confident about not paying, or those who think it will be abolished, are likely to ignore the penalty. But you are correct about the timing and if the charge still exists in three months time a big demo needs to be organised against the penalties.
The crunch really comes when people owe €500 - at the end of 2016 - and IW have to decide whether or not to attempt to get attachment orders through the courts. That will determine whether IW can survive, assuming it survives til then. If non payment remains around 50% IW can't survive, and everybody knows this. So sustaining non payment is vital to keeping pressure on FF and FG. Both are susceptible to pressure because of the instability of whatever administration takes office. But if people pay, that pressure will be much reduced."