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
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.”
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.
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