New Evidence bombshell - Sinn Féin spearheaded water charges in Europe while campaigning for abolition at home

by James Quigley & Enda Graig

New evidence was posted on the facebook page by Michael Mooney, Letterkenny, last week. The evidence shows Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP, proposing a progressive water charge in the the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the 8th September 2015.

This new evidence contradicts denials by Ms Boylan which appeared onRTE News on 9th Sept 2015,  ‘Boylan denies Sinn Féin backed water charges in European Parliament’.  At the time anti water activists took the explanation at face value because the accusation came from a Fine Gael MEP.  However, what this irrefutable evidence now shows is that while Sinn Féin was campaigning for the abolition of water charges and metering in Ireland they were the driving force for them in Europe.

The video shows Ms Boylan’s attempting to amend paragraph 92 of the European Citiizen’s Initiative Right2Water A8-0228/2015 . Ms Boylan was the main rapporteur of the original report and as such was responsible for preparing and presenting it to parliament. Her amendment was not successful, however, her original report including paragraph 92 was accepted.

Sinn Féin MEPs at the European Citizens' Initiative Right2Water vote in Strasbourg 8th Sept, 2015

 

Ms Boylan’s proposed amendment was;

″Mr President, I just have said to the Tabling Committee that we want to put forward an oral amendment for paragraph 92 and the amendment is;
calls on the Member States to introduce, in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines, a pricing policy by the application of a progressive charge that safeguards people’s right to access a minimum quantity of water for living and reduces waste.″

 

Paragraph 92 of original report that was passed states;

‘Calls on the Member States to introduce, in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines, a pricing policy that respects people’s right to a minimum quantity of water for living and cracks down on waste, providing for the application of a progressive charge that is proportional to the amount of water used;’

 

The smoking Gun

Michael Mooney, provided a link to the full European Parliament vote and included the following statement.
“WE presented it in black & white, now we present it in colour. This makes for a horrendous 35 seconds of viewing. Now we have the chief suspect NAILED for planting the bomb on our exemption from water charges. But she has many accomplices that didn't expect our investigations to uncover their cunning plan of deceit and betrayal on their own people. Firstly she denied knowledge of this paragraph. Secondly she was caught lying about having no knowledge as she tried to have it amended. Thirdly she and her accomplices still voted for it!”

 

Sources: Michael Mooney facebook
               Lynn Boylan amendment and links to European Citizens' Initiative


Buncrana Together

Based on this evidence we would say that if the Oireachtas Committee on Funding Domestic Water was a court of law we would be entitled to call a mistrial and sack the anti water charges representatives who comprised 25% of it's members.   With representatives like this it's no wonder we got the result we did.  Now it looks like the Oireachtas Committee was hobbled before it even got started, possibly preordained and prearranged by political parties. 

What sticks out a mile was the omission of Article 9.4 of the Water Framework Directive known as 'the Irish Exemption' in the final report of Oireachtas Committee.  This was what Mr Mooney referred to as 'planting a bomb on our exemption'.  Sinn Féin's support for water charges in Europe and the 9.4 Exemption is mutually exclusive. 


Confirmed: European Commission says we are no longer exempt from water charges

The “Irish exemption” ended when we introduced water charges, the European Commission has told TheJournal.ie.

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has expanded on its view that Ireland would be in breach of European law if we were to step back from the current system of water charges.

In response to a detailed query from TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the commission confirmed in a statement:

The Directive does not allow Member States that have introduced water charges to apply article 9(4) and revert to any previous practice not entailing the recovery of costs and the application of the polluter pays principle.

This confirms explicitly, and for the first time in a public statement, that the EC’s view is that an exemption from water charges once available to Ireland, ended with the introduction of water charges.

A dispute earlier this week had revolved around the question of whether water charges were the “established practice” for paying for water in Ireland.

In response to a European parliamentary question from Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, the commission this week stated:

If the established practice is to have a system in place implementing the recovery of the costs of water services, in accordance with the polluter pays principle, the Commission considers that the flexibility afforded to Member States as outlined in Article 9 paragraph 4 would not apply.

What that’s referring to is Article 9.4 of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which was agreed upon in 2000.

The directive gave all member states until 2010 to put in place a system of paying for water which incentivises preservation, and discourages pollution.

Source: European Commission

However, Article 9.4 included a loophole known as the “Irish exemption”, which allowed countries to opt out of that requirement, on two conditions:

  • If their “established practices” for water did not involve water charges
  • If the system they implement doesn’t violate the environmental and water preservation aims of the directive.

The commission’s reply earlier this week was first reported by RTÉ, and set off a dispute among Irish politicians, with Boylan and Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen claiming that water charges were not the established practice in Ireland.

Cowen, in particular, highlighted a 2010 commission response to a question from then MEP Alan Kelly, which appeared to suggest that the system considered the “established practice” was the one in place when the WFD was adopted, in 2003.

On RTE’s Drivetime on Tuesday, Cowen effectively argued that in 2003 Ireland paid for its water system through general taxation, and therefore the subsequent implementation of water charges in 2014 could not be regarded as “established practice.”

However, we put this question to the European Commission, and their response was clear: once a country has introduced water charges, the WFD does not allow them to “revert” to their previous system of paying for water.

We asked the commission whether they regarded the de facto introduction of water charges in Ireland to have happened in 2010, when the Fianna Fáil-led government submitted to the EC their plan to bring in water charges, or in 2014, when the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government implemented legislation to that effect.

In a statement, the spokesperson told us:

The Irish authorities recognised as far back as 2010 that reforms to the water sector were needed in order to improve the management of the resource and strengthen poor infrastructure. Ireland subsequently introduced water charges.

The government plans to suspend water charges for nine months and establish a commission to explore alternatives to the current arrangement involving Irish Water.

However, the EC’s now explicit public stance on the expiration of our exemption could put additional pressure on that commission to produce a proposal that fully conforms with European law.

The expert commission is expected to forward its final recommendation to a special Oireachtas committee in 2017, after which the Dáil and Seanad will vote on it.

Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

In a statement, a spokesperson for Minister Simon Coveney told TheJournal.ie:

The advice of the Attorney General has been sought in relation to the Water Framework Directive and water charges and this issue is under examination by that Office.

As would be normal with the drafting of legislation,  the Office of the Attorney General will provide advice on the proposed legislation…

If the EC deems that the temporary suspension of charges, or the new system emerging from the expert commission are in breach of the WFD, it could begin a lengthy, multi-stage legal process, potentially including hefty fines, against the Irish state.

It would then be up to the government of the day to decide whether or not to challenge the EC, a process that could ultimately see the question of water charges resolved in the European Court of Justice.

Original article: TheJournal.ie June 2, 2016


Sinn Fein once again cloud the Irish Water issue - Lynn Boylan's faux pas

 

Lynn Boylan, Sinn Fein MEP, on 'Tonight With Vincent Browne' , March 29th,  2016, got into deep waters trying to explain Ireland's water derogation in Article 9 of the EU Water Framework Directive.  

Incidentally it really boils down to two words in clause 4 of that article, 'Established Practice'.  For a explanation of this Directive see  'Michael Noonan 'Water Charges Required Under European Law' is a Lie'

Ms Boylan lost an opportunity to dwell on what should be a major controversy in Ireland, involving threats from Irish Water Ltd's solicitors .  She said

"their remit is to manage Irish Water so why are they commissioning legal opinion in order to have an argument for their self preservation.  Was tax payer's money spent on this legal opinion and how much did they spend.  Those questions need to be answered". 

She should have insisted that this issue be discussed and brought other panel members into the debate.  It is a major substantial issue,  one which could easily have taken up the entire programme and one no doubt we all want an answer to.   Paul Murphy, Anti Austerity Alliance understood this importance when, earlier in the week, he brought the controversy up and sent a formal letter to Irish Water and the media requesting an answer.

Unfortunately, Ms Boylan's questions were sidelined.   In what seemed to be an prearranged schedule, she went on to give her opinion on the so-called 'Irish Derogation' in the EU Framework Directive, a complicated EU bureaucratic legal document.    Ms Boylan had a piece of evidence to hand which she read out verbatim.  From her demeanour she looked like she believed that this scoop was a coup de grace.  The evidence concerned Scotland's water provision model and their interpretation of the EU Directive. 

In retrospect she should not have complicated her first point.   She opened the door for the presenter to pin her into a corner where she had to explain how people inScotland pay for their water, i.e. Council Tax.  Ms Boylan then went on to bring Northern Ireland'swater model into the conversation.  Northern Ireland of course pay individually for their water through Corporation Tax.    

The statement was really Lynn Boylan's opinion, her interpretation of the EU Directive, nothing more.  Possibly her standing as an MEP gave it credibility but the Noonan article above mentions the opinions of two other MEPs.   The fact is we can all have opinions even Irish Water's solicitors (as long as we do not spend other people's money on it). 

When all is said and done our derogation exist with the words 'Established Practice' in there.  The next government should apply this derogation,  irrespective of what Irish Water or Mr Noonan says.  It will then be up to the European Commission to take it to the European Court if they think we are wrong.  Although not part of the above Vincent Browne video clip,  one of the panelists, Mr Sean Fleming, Fianna Fail, understood the point when he said that the present set up of water charges, as put in place by the former Fine Gael/Labour government, is not an 'established practice'.

Far from Lynn Boylan's statement,  being a "nail in Irish Water's coffin", as has been described on social media, it was another episode of Sinn Fein complicating the issue for other anti water charge campaigners.   Sinn Fein have been doing things their own way ever since the campaign started.  

Gerry Adams and other party members were in favour of water charges at the start.  Next they did not support a boycott.  Sinn Fein controlled Right2Change and came out with a unilateral election pact and orchestrated the expulsion of the Anti Austerity Alliance.  In 2015 Lynn Boylan was embroiled in a controversy 'Sinn Fein backed water charges in European Parliament'.  One of the most bewildering Sinn Fein's statement was the one by Eoin O'Broin, March 13th, 2016,  where he called for an independent commission on Irish Water to be set up and that Sinn Fein would accept the outcome, RTE This Week March 13th 'Sinn Fein Change of Position on Irish Water'.   Lynn Boylan recently dropped another bombshell, 9th March, which has never been adequately explained"Irish Water charges plan must be withdrawn before March 22nd deadline". 

 

Getting into a tizzy on EU bureaucracy ?

At the outset we have to ask the question why a Sinn Fein MEP is only now bringing up the question of such an important EU Directive?  Why has Sinn Fein's MEPs not been on top of this from the start and why have they not shared it with the Irish anti water charges' movement?

One of the reasons that the little derogation clause has sent politicians into a tizzy lately is because of a leaked threat from Irish Water Ltd's solicitors which appeared in The Irish Times, 29th March 2016;  'Water Charges irreversible in EU Law says Lawyers'.  

Another reason occurred three weeks ago when Michael Noonan, aformer Fine Gael Finance Minister,  issued a broadside to Fianna Fail;  'Michael Noonan 'Water Charges Required Under European Law' is a Lie'.   Here Mr Noonan was using the EU Directive as a bargaining ploy in Fine Gael's negotiations with Fianna Fail and other parties trying to form a government. 

These two revelations coming one after the other are very similar.  One would think that there may be a connection, designed to put pressure on the political discussions taking place at present on forming the next government.   The threats have come out about three weeks after the Irish General Election, the result of which was a stalemate where no party got a majority.    The formation of the next government is up for grabs.  Both Fine Gael's and Irish Water's futures are at stake.

Original TV3 programme: Tonight With Vincent Browne