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

Cabinet warned over unsafe levels of chemicals in drinking water

Daily penalties by European Court of Justice possible if Ireland does not act appropriately

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he would bring forward legislation within six weeks to implement the recommendations. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he would bring forward legislation within six weeks to implement the recommendations. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

The Cabinet has been warned of potential infringement proceedings by the European Commission due to dangerous levels of chemicals found in drinking water.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney briefed the meeting on the contents of the final report of the Oireachtas committee on water charges.

Mr Coveney said he would bring forward legislation within six weeks to implement the recommendations.

The issue of refunds is unlikely to be dealt with at this point but a spokesman for the Government said this would be prepared in a budgetary context.

The Minister also informed the Government of the potential for legal action by the commission on the level of trihalomethanes (THMs) in the water system has been closed.

Ireland will be given the opportunity to respond to the action. If its response is inadequate, the commission can take the case to the European Court of Justice, whose judgment is binding.

Significant daily penalties could be imposed by the court if Ireland does not act appropriately.

THMs are chemicals that have been present in many public water supplies for years. They are formed when chlorine is added to purify water.

Cancer risks

Long-term exposure is reported to carry increased risks of cancers, including of the bladder and colon, and causes damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidney and central nervous system.

Permissible levels of trihalomethanes in drinking water are limited by the EU drinking water directive and World Health Organisation guidelines.

It is understood that up to 400,000 households in Ireland are affected, including ones in parts Kerry and Cork, Kilkenny city, Waterford, Wicklow, Meath, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal and Galway.

In May 2015, the European Commission initiated a pilot case here due to THMs levels exceeding guidelines in some drinking-water supplies.

Source: Irish Times, Sarah Bardon, May 2 2017

Proposed Moville/Greencastle Waste Water Treatment Plant - Amended Legislation

by Enda Craig
Community For a Clean Estuary

Lough Foyle, Co Donegal, Ireland

Lough Foyle, Co Donegal, Ireland


The above attachment contains details of amended national legislation that came about as a result of a formal complaint made to the European Commission by the environmental campaign group 'Community For a Clean Estuary', Carnagarve, Moville, Co Donegal.

The group had alleged that the legislation  granting  planning permission by An Bord Pleanála and the High Court, to build a proposed Waste Water Treatment Plant for the towns of Moville and Greencastle at Carnagarve, was based on defective European Planning Legislation.

This amendment was carried out by the Irish Government on foot of an ultimatum from the European Commission in Brussels to either amend the defective legislation or face the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The Government recognised the game was up and decided to comply with the relevant European Environmental Legislation.

This is a massive achievement by a small group of community activists determined to prevent their local environment being destroyed. Having witnessed An Bord Pleanála and the High Court of Ireland deliberately (and illegally) ignore European Commission legislation,  it is encouraging to see them being brought  to account and have them apply  proper process.

Nevertheless, the final important battle is yet to be decided. The European Commission having insisted on compliance  must now decide if the original planning permission by An Bord Pleanála is allowed to stand.  Will the European Commission insist the decision to grant planning permission is re-visited and set aside (as it should be) in light of the amended legislation?

Historically the European Commission does not  retrospectively apply amended legislation but our group Community For A Clean Estuary is challenging this decision.  We must point out that no group would reasonably  be willing to take the time, effort  and go to the  expense of making a complaint to the European Commission if  it means   that  in return  your own case will be ignored and  only future projects will need to comply with the amended European Legislation.

Source: SaveTheFoyle, Feb 19, 2017