by Seamus Healy, TD
The irony and hypocrisy of today’s announcement introducing water charges by Labour Party Minister Alan Kelly T.D. will not be lost on the general public.
During the last General Election Minister Kelly and the Labour Party asked the people of North Tipperary to vote for him to prevent Fine Gael imposing Water Charges. He stood on a Labour Party Manifesto which opposed Water Charges. His Party published a “Tesco Ad” warning people not to vote for Fine Gael because that Party wanted to introduce Water Charges.
He is now doing a complete U Turn, breaking the promises and commitments he and his party made. He is now introducing water charges himself. This is the sort of hypocrisy which is undermining our democracy.
Labour Leader Joan Burton T.D., contrary to commitments and promises has presided over the destruction of social welfare services. Child poverty is now at 28.6% with 130,000 additional children living in poverty, affected no doubt by the savage child benefit cuts introduced by Minister Burton.
The list of other cuts include Respite Care Grant, abolition of Telephone Allowance, reduction in Free Fuel and Electricity Payments, reduction in Maternity Benefit and One Parent Family Payment, abolition of the Bereavement Grant and the list goes on.
This Government, despite election promises, are now implementing the austerity policies of the previous Fianna Fáil/Green Government.
This Government cannot be trusted and has no mandate for austerity or for the introduction of water charges.
The lie is being peddled that the public won’t pay for water. But the public have paid, are paying and continue to pay for water through general taxation.
The water charges now being proposed are double taxation and are an attempt to make hard-pressed families pay a second time.
IT WON’T WORK
Today’s announcements amount to political trickery to get the water charges across the line and establish the principle of charging for water at any cost.
Once Water Charges are established, water will become a commodity and charges will rise to full cost recovery under EU law.
Today’s announcements amount to the “thin end of the wedge”, “casting out a sprat to catch a salmon”, “ a supermarket loss leader”, “come into my parlour said the spider to the fly”.
The public know that this is a trap and will not be fooled.
The Public knows that Water Charges introduced at a low level will, like refuse/bin charges balloon to significant sums.
What did happen with Bin Charges??
I was a member of Clonmel Corporation when Bin Charges were introduced at the minimal rate of £5 per year. I opposed those charges as the thin end of the wedge that would in time hit hard pressed families.
I was of course ridiculed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour Councillors. One Councillor threw a box of matches across the table at me saying the charges are only the cost of a box of matches a week.
But what happened? Bin Charges are now €300 per year, more than 30 times the introductory “offer”; the waiver for low income families has been abolished and the service has been privatised.
That is the future if we allow the introduction of water charges. The public know that and they will not be sold a pup, like they were by the Labour Party in the 2011 General Election.
Families have had enough after 6 years of austerity and this hated water charge is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Water is a human right, a public good that must not be commodified, commercialised or privatised. It is the responsibility of the State to protect the public’s right to safe, secure accessible and affordable water. Water is a human right and a public good and must not be turned into a profit making opportunity for National or Multinational Corporations.
Promises of legislation to prevent privatisation are simply that …”promises” from a government that cannot be trusted.
Proposed legal changes to cap charges for a number of years, to make it more difficult to privatise Irish Water or to require a plebiscite are completely bogus. Any Act can be repealed or amended by a simple majority of deputies. A Legal provision to require a two thirds majority or even a 100% agreement to privatise Irish Water can be repealed by a simple majority. Such a proposal is pure deception.
If the government was sincere on this issue, it would agree to a constitutional amendment.
The Public know that only People Power can abolish water charges and secure the status of water as a human right and a public good.
The most important task now is for the “Risen People” to turn out in huge numbers for the National Protest in Dublin on 10th December next and in Tipperary to support the Nenagh March next Saturday 22 Nov at 2pm and the Clonmel March on Saturday 29th November at 2pm.