They All Must Go

by Paul Murphy July 5, 2016

 

 

 

“People voted a certain way, Leinster House is not prepared to grasp that particular nettle, so we have to find a solution that will have enough sugar on it to make the medicine go down easily.”  Joe O’Toole on Newstalk Breakfast, June 30, 2016


 

Govenment's Expert Commission on Domestic Water Services

Gritta Nottelman

Gritta Nottelman

Brendan Mahony

Brendan Mahony

Joe O'Toole Chairman

Joe O'Toole Chairman

Bill Emery

Bill Emery

Peter Peacock

Peter Peacock

Sarah Hendry

Sarah Hendry

Xavier Leflaive

Xavier Leflaive

Andrew Kelly

Andrew Kelly

 

 

Chairman quits after only a week under pressure

Joe O’Toole has been forced to resign as chair of the supposedly neutral expert commission not because he believed its job was to add enough sugar to make water charges, but because he gave the game away.

In his resignation statement, he declared:

“I am comfortable with the fact that I put my views honestly and transparently on the record. It is regrettable that my straight-talking has caused difficulties for others but in that regard I am unlikely to change anytime soon.”

Kevin Duffy

Kevin Duffy

Update: Joe O'Toole resigned July 6th and was replaced by Kevin Duffy, former chairman of the Labour Court.  Those in the Luas dispute will have first hand knowledge of Mr Duffy. 

He was appointed Chairman of the Labour Court in December 2003, having served as Deputy Chairman since 1997. Prior to that he was Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions since 1988, with responsibility for industrial relations and trade union organisation.  Before taking up the position of Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU, Kevin was General Secretary of the Ancient Guild of Incorporated Brick and Stonelayers’ and Allied Trades Union (now part of the Building and Allied Trades Union).  He has been a member of the Labour Relations Commission, the Civil Service Arbitration Board and the Board of FÁS.  Industrial Relations Research Trust

 

Oldest trick in book

Anybody who pays attention to politics will know that the establishment of ‘independent’ commissions to look into things is the oldest trick in the book. The aim is usually to take heat out of an issue in order to be able to return later to it.

The issue of the expert commission on water charges is no different. The government has faced a mass movement of opposition against water charges, with significant protests and  a mass boycott.  This opposition was reflected in the general election.  The result is a Dáil where about 70% of TDs have a mandate to end water charges and abolish Irish Water.

Yet, Fine Gael in particular remains committed to bringing water charges back and Fianna Fáil is far from committed to really oppose them.

So between them, they agreed the suspension of water charges and the establishment of a water commission to ‘look into the issue.  This Commission, as Joe O’Toole let slip, has a predetermined outcome.  This will be some form of water charges.  The ‘experts’ will have spoken and we will be told by large sections of the media that it is deeply irresponsible not to go along with water charges.

Who are those experts?

Well many of them are connected to water privatisation. That includes

Xavier Leflaive of the OECD who has previously written that. “Water pricing can be used to signal scarcity and to create incentives for efficient water use in all sectors (e.g. agriculture, industry, domestic)”,

Dr Andrew Kelly; founder and executive director of EnvEcon.

Peter Peacock; chair of the Customer Forum for Water Scotland

Gritta Nottelman;  who works for a private Dutch water company.

Brendan O'Mahony; Chairman of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes.  Former chairman of of IFI;   Works closely with Irish Water and Government

Bill Emery; chair of Northern Ireland Utility Regulator. Also currently non-executive chair of the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE),

Sarah Hendry; a lawyer specialising in water and environmental law, University of Dundee, Scotland

This elevation of supposedly neutral experts is of course a part of the technocratisation of politics, what Peter Mair described as the “hollowing of western democracy”.

We have had a thorough debate on water charges over the past years. People engaged in street meetings, in mass protests, in campaigning organisations.  They then spoke decisively, in protest, in a majority of people boycotting and in the general election.

The problem the government has is that they spoke the wrong way and therefore a way has to be found around them.

Right2Water has agreed a further major national protest on Saturday,  September 17. This will be an opportunity for a renewed call for the attempts to subvert the wishes of people to end.

The so-called expert commission should go. The bullying from the European Commission should not be heeded.

The Dáil should simply act to abolish water charges and Irish Water and provide for the necessary substantial investment in water infrastructure paid for through progressive taxation.

Paul Murphy is a TD Anti Austerity Alliance. Follow Paul on Twitter:

Original article:  www.broadsheet.ie


Kevin Duffy to be new chair of Water Commission

It's all in the way you say it

Kevin Duffy new chairman Irish Water Commission appointed by Simon Coveney, July 7, 2016 following controversial resignation of Joe O'Toole   

Kevin Duffy new chairman Irish Water Commission appointed by Simon Coveney, July 7, 2016 following controversial resignation of Joe O'Toole

 

"A safe pair of hands and more importantly a safe pair of lips"  RTE's description of the news  that Minister Simon Coveney appointed Kevin Duffy as the new chairman of the Commission on Domestic Water Services on July 7, 2016.  This followed the controversial resignation of the former chairman Joe O'Toole on Wednesday..

Asked were people were happy with this appointment, RTE's reporter Martina Fitzgerald (see video below), ironically hit the nail on the head when she said

"Well, it depends what view one takes of the Commission. For those who are opposed to it's very existence, it really makes very little difference who is chairing it  But for those who are keeping an open on the issue he ticks a lot of boxes."

 

Subtle nuances in RTE reporting 

On the one hand we have  the 'hardliners', opposed to it's very existence and on the other  there are the 'open'  reasonable people who Ms Fitzgerald thought would see all the positive attributes that Mr Duffy possesses.  Ms Fitzgerald continued to list Mr Duffy's attributes.  

 

RTE News July 7, 2016

 

The Irish Mirror less subjective view

The Irish Mirror, July 7,  quoted the Minister Simon Coveney as describing Mr Duffy's positive attributes as  "He has a distinguished track record of public service and will bring to the commission’s work a wealth of experience in addressing complex, intractable issues.”

Responding to the appointment, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy said they had no faith in the commission.  "Joe O’Toole gave the game away from the government’s perspective.

Fine Gael are determined to try to re-introduce water charges – they are seeking a pre-determined outcome from the Commission to try to achieve that. They want to then present this as the conclusion of an ‘expert’ panel.

However, O’Toole’s ‘straight talking’ let the cat out of the bag and now the Commission has no credibility in the eyes of the public because they know it’s a set-up."

Reference:   www.merrianstreet.ie, Irish Government New Services for details.


Households ‘will not be chased’ for unpaid water bills

Households will not be chased for unpaid water bills or arrears in paying the levy while a nine-month freeze of the charge is underway, housing minister Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney also passed amendments to water charges legislation yesterday which could allow the suspension of charges to go beyond nine months if the Oireachtas desires this.

The minister was speaking at the committee on housing and faced demands to overhaul a Water Bill to suspend charges, which is currently going through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The committee heard that amendments to the water legislation mean the cancellation of bills and charges will now be aligned so they are both stopped for nine months at the same time as of from July 1 to March 1 next year. However, Irish Water, in the meantime, will now not pursue hundreds of thousands of people who have refused to pay their charges, the committee heard. Mr Coveney told TDs at the committee: “There isn’t going to be a pursuing of bill or arrears during the nine-month period.”

READ NEXT Joe O'Toole blames his 'straight talking' and Fianna Fáil control of Government on downfall

There would be no liability for charges or arrears before the Oireachtas votes on the future of water charges, TDs were told. This will happen after an expert commission examines water charges for nine months and a committee then takes another three months to make recommendations.

There were complaints from opposition TDs at the committee about the limited nature of the Water Bill.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger warned the continued installation of water meters would impede debate.

Mr Coveney said there was a defined period for the suspension and anything beyond that could be recommended by the Oireachtas Committee for a minister to consider. TDs complained that amendments had been ruled out of order by the bills office, including suggestions for a referendum to be held on keeping Irish Water in public ownership.

Mr Coveney, though, said he would be open to listening to suggestions about water charges, including the suggestion from Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan for the referendum. He outlined plans to meet EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella over the next week about suspending water charges, adding: “Anybody outside of Ireland needs to understand this is a sensitive political issue.”

Asked if Ireland may be fined for the suspension of charges, Mr Coveney said: “I would be surprised if we didn’t get facilitated.”

Original article: Juno McEnroe, Irish Examiner, Wed 5, 2016