Nasty News for Water Warriors

Original article by Dublin Eileen posted on December 2017


A Christmas holiday custom in Ireland is to break nasty political news just before the big day when everyone is too busy to take much notice. Today, news broke of how rejigged legislation will bring in disputed water charges, (a prerequisite of the EU’s ‘bail out’ agreement), through the back door. Here is the article: Almost 100,000 households face being hit with a new water charge from 2019. This begs the question as to why has no one has kicked up an enormous fuss about the potential loss of an important legal EU exemption? A legal protection that is one of the most useful weapons that the water movement has against the pillaging of the water resources of Ireland. This provision allows the Irish public to pay for domestic water services via general taxation as opposed to direct charges.

Exemption 9.4 of the Water Framework Directive, was negotiated and renewed by successive Irish governments as part of the River Basin Management Plan. It is due to lapse in two months time and there is a blanket silence over the issue. Neither media, politicians nor activists from any side of the spectrum are discussing it. Without it, Ireland will be liable for hefty fines from the EU for not following the commission’s preferred option of direct payments by individual families to both privatised and publicly owned water companies.

The Irish public have made their position clear. They prefer paying for the service via general taxation. Above all they fear and reject privatisation of the resource, feeling that direct charges leave the water resource utterly vulnerable to that fate. They know that privatisation will lead to skyrocketing prices, poor quality control and water poverty. Indeed these are issues that have prompted many European local authorities, at substantial cost, to resume management and ownership of their own water services.

Allowing the exemption to lapse certainly suits the neoliberal Fine Gael and Fianna Fail ruling parties, (currently in a ‘confidence and supply’ minority governent arrangement), whose ideological position is one of privatisation of public services. However for politicians from the other side of the house to allow this happen is like handing your biggest cannon to your foe and affording them the means to utterly defeat you. Media commentators will use the resulting EU fines to support the ruling party’s line and crush the grass roots led Anti Water Charges Movement.

What options do members of the public who wish to continue paying for their water services via general taxation have?  Perhaps the best one is to ask vulnerable Fianna Fail parliamentarians what they are doing to safeguard the exemption?  It’s retention is the only legal safeguard our water resource has.

The 9.4 Clause of the EU Water Framework Directive

The following is an extract from 'The Future of Water Charges' a legal opinion obtained by the Joint Committee on the future Funding of Domestic Water in Ireland February 2017.

Paragraph 18. { “If the derogation (exemption) is to continue to be availed of, Ireland must explicitly include the derogation in its next River Basin Management Plan and state the reasons for availing of the exemption.” }

…..Signed : Matthias Kelly, QC Essex Chambers London WC2A 1DD And Merchants Quay Chambers, 25-26 Merchants Quay Dublin 8.

Mr. Kelly’s position is supported by the 9 Irish MEPs in this letter to the Irish Times.

The European Commission has also confirmed in emails to Lynn Boylan and Marian Harkin that

"if Ireland would like to avail of Article 9.4 (the derogation) then it should submit that request in its second River Basin Management Plan with justification. This second river basin management plan is now not due to be submitted until 2017, with plenty of time for Ireland to establish that derogation."

It is beyond doubt then that if the Irish Government so wishes, it can still use the derogation and justify its use in its River Basin Management Plan, as has been done and is still being done by so many other European regions and countries. ‘

(An extension of two months has been currently granted to the Irish Government leaving the renewal due in Feb 2018).


Full article at