Establishment of an Expert Commission on Domestic Public Water Services

Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr Simon Coveney T.D. is to establish an Expert Commission shortly to make recommendations on a sustainable long-term funding model for the delivery of domestic public water and waste water services by Irish Water.   The proposed terms of reference for the Commission are shown below, and it is intended that the Commission will endeavour to complete its work within five months of its establishment.  The recommendations of the Commission will be considered by a special Oireachtas Committee.

The Minister intends that the Commission will include both national and international experts and invites interested parties to put forward potential nominees.  Given the complexity of the issues involved, it is intended that the Commission will require professional expertise in funding and financing of large scale infrastructure investment and maintenance programmes; economic regulation; utility approaches particularly in the water sector; water resources management and water environmental law.

Names of nominees and their respective areas of expertise should be submitted using the template attached to the Department (ExpertCommission@environ.ie) by 5.30pm on 17th June 2016.  Please note that any submissions made are subject to FOI, and any confidential information supplied in this context should be clearly highlighted.

Final selection shall be a matter for the Minister, taking account of need for the Commission to have the best range of expertise to deliver on the terms of reference within the timeframe proposed.

Proposed Terms of Reference

An Expert Commission will be set up to assess and make recommendation upon the funding of domestic public water services in Ireland and improvements in water quality, taking into account:

  • The maintenance and investment needs of the public water and waste water system on a short, medium and long-term basis;
  • Proposals on how the national utility in State ownership would be able to borrow to invest in water infrastructure;
  • The need to encourage water conservation, including through reviewing information campaigns on water conservation in other countries;
  • Ireland’s domestic and international environmental standards and obligations;
  • The role of the Regulator; and
  • Submissions from all interested parties.

The Commission will be empowered to commission relevant research and hear evidence to assist this work. The Commission shall endeavour to complete its work within five months of its establishment.

Original article published on Friday, June 10, 2016; Dept of the Environment


Buncrana Together

This idea of setting up a  commission to investigate the so called best model of water services in Ireland  was first muted by Eoin O' Broin, Sinn Fein on RTE's This Week on March 13, 2016.  This was an unilateral call by Sinn Fein, one which surprised quite a few anti water charge groups in the country.  What was more alarming was that Mr O'Broin agreed to abide by any decision of any commission even if it came out in favour of Irish Water and charges.

This was not  the first time Sinn Fein went out on a limb, making unilateral decisions.  Once again this put the water movement on the back foot.  It is still unknown whether the self proclaimed leadership of Righ2Water, i.e Brendan Ogle & Co,  knew anything about the O'Broin statement beforehand.  There was no explanation, no condemnation of the proposal and no statement from Mr Ogle.  

Bear in mind that the 'Commission' proposed by Sinn Fein was at a time of intense negotiations between parties and independent TDs trying to form a new government after the inconclusive February 26th general election.  

What was Sinn Fein's motive for suddenly and without a mandate  calling for a commission? Only they can answer that but for us it was manipulation and it eventually handed an excuse to Fine Gael to form a minority government with an agreement from Fianna Fail.  Fine Gael and Fianna Fail got over the thorny, divisive issue by agreeing to a commission on water services and abolishing water charges for nine months at least.  

Who knows maybe they might have come up with that idea anyway but they knew that Sinn Fein could not say boo since they came up with the idea in the first place.  The water campaign is at the mercy of political manipulation and party politics.

Now we have Fine Gael on their high horse pushing their own agenda with Fianna Fail adding little input or criticism.   Not only does Fine Gael want 'experts' but the minister is going to pick them as described in the following extract from their submission of nominees.

"Final selection shall be a matter for the Minister, taking account of need for the Commission to have the best range of expertise to deliver on the terms of reference within the timeframe proposed."