Undeniable proof - the Irish Anti Water Charges Movement was sold out, betrayed by R2W Unions and TDs

By Enda Craig

There is undeniable proof that the Irish people were sold out and betrayed by R2W Unions and TDs incl. Sinn Féin, PBP, Solidarity, Ind4Change, Social Democrats on the Water Charges issue.

The RTE video of the 6th of April 2017 on the Dáil media plinth shows R2W TDs one after the other giving victory speeches. Deputy Eoin O'Broin states that indeed there is '“COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT” with the contents of the Oireachtas Committee on Water Charges report and they will now meet with the rest of the Committee in the dail in the afternoon to formally adopt it.

It transpired at that meeting Simon Coveney announced he had written to the chairman of the committee the previous night stating that Fine Gael would not accept the draft report because an agreement on metering that they made with Fianna Fáil, one week previously, did not appear in the report.

It is important to point out that the issue involved only ‘METERING’ and not ‘Charges For Excessive Use’ or any other clause including acceptance of Irish Water, agreed by all Committee members as stated in the draft report. It was this single issue on metering that R2W would eventually use to distance itself from the eventual water legislation.

It is logical to assume that accepting the principle of ‘Excessive Use Charge’ that that would entail metering the amount of water used. Note that the ‘Excessive Use Charge’ principle was introduced as early as 2015 in Brussels by rapporteur Lynn Boylan supported by R2W, see this article Here.

The Oireachtas Committee spent the next week addressing the metering changes and eventually the wording was changed to reflect the FG/FF agreement as mentioned by Simon Coveney in his letter.

The Committee’s Final Report on Domestic Water Charges was passed on 11th of April 2017 by a majority of 13 to 7. 5 R2W TD'S, 1 Green Party Senator and 1 Labour Party Senator voted against.

The only difference in the the Draft Confidential Report that the R2W agreed with and Final Report related to the change in wording on metering only. It did not include any rejection of ‘Charges For Excessive Use’ by the R2W TD's. It is critically important to understand that the part in the report that was modified had to do with a disagreement on metering details between FG and FF. and not the any agreed charging regime.

It seems none of the committee members had any problem with the ‘Charges For Excessive Use’ as written in the Draft Report on the 6th of April and agreed to again in the final report on the 11th of April. The reason R2W TD's voted against the final report had to do with the modified details on metering alone.

This final Oireachtas Committee’s Report on Domestic Water Charges, including the principle of charging for excessive use, became the official position of the Government and this eventually became part of the Water Services Act 2017 that passed into legislation in Sept 2017.

R2W TDs, of course objected to the Bill. However, in my view, this was in truth a 'face saving ' exercise. By agreeing to ' Charges For Excessive Use ' the details on metering was a side show allowing them to jump up and down in false protest. The harm was already done and they had a major part in it.

The Water Services Act was now included in the new River Basin Management Plan as the Irish Govt's official position on the new Domestic Water Charges for Ireland and this was forwarded to Brussels for approval.

In a nutshell, R2W and affiliated TD's, by agreeing to commodify domestic water usage through the ‘Charges for Excessive Use’ principle, have facilitated the Government in their long term plan to activate Articles 102-106 of the Lisbon Treaty ( signed up to in 2009 ) that insists that all member states must open up to competition any goods/ services that are available on the open market at unit price ( e.g cost per litre of water ). This will align Ireland with the EU Single Market opening up domestic water charging to competition laws. This will in turn do away with our precious 9.4 Domestic Water Exemption.

R2W Unions and the R2W TD's should never have agreed to this. They should have ignored completely the Government signing up to the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ and they should have fought tooth and nail to retain the 9.4 Exemption.

Instead they handed the Government water charges and privatisation on a plate. Perhaps this is the price you pay as advocates of the EU and the Single Market.

R2W have attempted to explain their shameful decision when they published the following statement;

"Much criticism has been made of a number of TD’s who support Right2Water declaring a victory on the plinth of the Dail on 5th April 2017. At that particular time, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Water had agreed a draft report stating that charges were to be abolished, mandatory metering would end and the referendum to enshrine public ownership of our water supply would take place. Had that Report been adopted, it would indeed have been a massive victory for everyone who had campaigned against water charges. Instead, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael conspired to change the report outside of committee hearings, a scandal in itself, undermining the democratic processes of the Oireachtas, and not for the first time. In the same week, Simon Coveney, the Minister responsible for water, issued threats to the committee when he wrote to the Chair "

The fact of the matter is FF and FG conspired to change the report on metering but nothing to do with the core part of the report which included the Charges For Excessive Use and acceptance of Irish Water. The statement was an example of a premeditated manipulation of the truth by R2W. People should not allow them or affiliated TD's to continue to treat them as fools. If we are to progress and counter the status quo EU austerity measures then any opposition must embrace honesty, democracy and a little bit of humility. Without this the often cacaphony of ‘Unity’ is false.

I have shown beyond doubt that the R2W TD's sold out the people and the Irish Water Charges Movement by agreeing the ’ Excessive Use Charge’ principle. The metering issue between FG/FF was and is still being used as a smokescreen to hide a shameful truth. R2W conspired behind the backs of the movement by not being upfront and honest and were complicit for whatever reason in not only undermining our 3 core principles 1. No Water Charges 2. No Metering and 3. No Irish Water company.

In my view they quite rightly denigrated Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for their political shenanigans but it is shameful that they deny their own culpability.

Thousands of water meters still fitted in Northern Ireland despite Stormont pledge - July 2016

Fifth in our series looking at articles relating to water charges in Northern Ireland.  This article, by The Irish News dated July 5 2016  relates to NI Water installing meters even after the practice was exposed by the newspaper in 2014 that forced Ministers to pledge that they would stop the practice.   Two days after this article came out the Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard instructed NI Water to cease installing meters.  However, it was not until December 2016 that legislation wasput in place by Stormont.

Water ministers since 2007, from left, Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy, UUP's Danny Kennedy, DUP's Michelle McIlveen and Sinn Féin's Chris Hazzard

Water ministers since 2007, from left, Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy, UUP's Danny Kennedy, DUP's Michelle McIlveen and Sinn Féin's Chris Hazzard


Thousands of water meters still fitted at homes despite Stormont pledge

Brendan Hughes
05 July, 2016 01:00

WATER meters continue to be installed at homes across Northern Ireland despite a Stormont pledge two years ago to end the practice.

More than 7,000 meters have been fitted at domestic properties since 2014 bringing the number of water meters installed since 2007 to 42,200 at a cost in excess of £13 million.

Stormont faced accusations of "deception" over water charges when The Irish News first revealed in 2014 the scale of meter installations.

In response to the revelations the then regional development minister Danny Kennedy vowed to change the law on water meters for households.

However, the legislation brought forward earlier this year has not stopped meters being fitted, even though domestic water charges are deferred.

The new law gives the department the power to make regulations to remove the requirement for NI Water to install meters.

Any such regulations however would still require approval through the assembly and consultations with bodies such as the Consumer Council and Utility Regulator.

Opposition parties last night called for the executive to end meter installations at homes to prevent "charging infrastructure taking root".

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan, the party's infrastructure spokesperson, said: "The executive's promise to defer water charges will be cold comfort to those living in the 42,200 family homes that now have water meters installed.

"They'll rightly ask what other purpose those meters serve than to pave the way for a domestic charge.

"Every day that he delays sees more and more meters installed with the charging infrastructure taking root. The answer is simple – table the regulations."

Water charges continue to be a divisive issue on both sides of the border, with bills recently suspended in the south.

In the north water charges currently only apply to non-domestic properties.

But under legislation introduced in 2007, NI Water must install meters on supplies to domestic properties newly connected to the public water supply.

NI Water had sought to stop fitting meters at new homes but is still legally required to continue.

There have been four ministers in charge of the issue since 2007, including Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy and Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy.

In November 2014 Mr Kennedy told The Irish News he intended to change the law following calls for meters at new homes to be banned.

"It is my intention to amend the existing legislation on this issue through the forthcoming Water Bill," he said.

The DUP's Michelle McIlveen succeeded him last year as minister of the Department for Regional Development (DRD).

And earlier this year its responsibilities were moved to the new Department for Infrastructure, currently headed by Sinn Féin minister Chris Hazzard.

Mr McCrossan urged the minister to push forward with the regulations saying he had the power "end this practice and that's exactly what he needs to do".

TUV leader Jim Allister also called for a "clear explanation as to why the promised action has not been followed through".

Mr Kennedy was unavailable yesterday, but party colleague Jenny Palmer urged the executive to continue the work he started.

The assembly member, the party's infrastructure spokesperson, said: "The work that was done by Danny Kennedy to bring forward this legislation must be given effect as soon as possible in this mandate.

"If the executive does not intend to implement water charging, then public confidence should not be undermined by the continued installation of water meters."

A spokesman for NI Water said the total number of meters serving domestic properties has reached 42,200.

He said the new laws on water meters "cannot be implemented until guidance is given by the Department for Infrastructure".

The Department for Infrastructure last night did not respond to requests for a comment.

However when asked in April during the last Stormont mandate a DRD spokesman said: "The Water and Sewerage Services Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 gives the Department power to make regulations to remove the current requirement on NI Water to install water meters at domestic properties connecting for the first time to the public water supply.

"The department is working to form the necessary regulations which must be approved by the new assembly."


European Commission questions NI water charges decision

This is fourth in the series looking at articles relating to water charges in Northern Ireland.  The BBC article is dated August 22 2016.  It was published after Britain's EU referendum June 2016 but before Teresa May triggered Article 50 March 2017.  The point about timing is how would Brexit affect this EU pilot case or indeed Stormont's commitment to the EU Water Framework Directive.  Wouldn't it be interesting to find out the outcome?

We have contacted the EU Commission Representative for NI (incidentally in London) about any outcomes and as soon as we get their answer, if any, we will let you know. 


European Commission questions NI water charges decision

By Conor Macauley BBC NI
Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

The European Commission has asked questions about the Northern Ireland Executive's decision not to charge homeowners for water.

Stormont officials have refused to give any details citing confidentiality.

Homeowners will not face bills until at least March 2017, after MLAs ruled to defer charges.

Instead, the executive pays the cost of £280m a year to NI Water. Further legislation is expected to extend the policy.

However, the decision could mean that the authorities are not complying with European rules on water quality.

The EU Water Framework Directive envisages that users should pay for their water to promote conservation.

'Pilot case'

Officials in Northern Ireland make the case that people do that through their regional rate.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not to levy a charge on homes, although businesses do pay charges.

That has prompted a debate with calls for the introduction of a charge on homes to pay for improvements in infrastructure.

Now, the European Commission has opened a so-called "pilot case" to look at the issue.

Essentially, this is a way for the commission to establish whether EU rules are being correctly applied.

It allows for the commission and member states to resolve any conflicts without resorting to infringement proceedings.

The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said it could not comment on the detail of the case.

"It is the subject of a confidential dialogue with the Commission and the release of further details could potentially prejudice the outcome of those discussions," said the department.

The two sides get about 20 weeks to try and sort out their differences.

Many cases are resolved without going to a formal hearing.

Source: BBC News NI, Aug 22 2016