Independent TD Mattie McGrath has submitted a Private Members Bill to the Oireachtas in what he has described as an attempt to tame the Irish Water beast. Deputy McGrath was speaking ahead of what is expected to be another day of Government created confusion around the proposed charges which are to apply for residential water usage:
“I have made it clear from the beginning of this fiasco that I was fundamentally opposed to the severity of the financial burden being placed upon thousands of families through the introduction of the water charge. I am still opposed to that.
Equity and ability to pay must be front and centre to this whole debate.
That being said I have submitted this PMB to try and force the hand of Government to make several new provisions in relation to Irish Water.
These are that Irish Water is to be fully subject to Freedom Of Information legislation, that the Minister for the Environment create a dedicated independent ombudsman with real and meaningful powers for resolving disputes related to Irish Water and to make provision for Irish Water to be a fully public owned entity which is prohibited to enter into a public private partnership without recourse to a referendum.
I am also calling for the metering authority to make provision for the establishment of a free online customer account where people can access and monitor their levels of water consumption.
These are measures I believe will help bring Irish Water or any organisation or agency established to manage our water infrastructure into a more clearly defined position of statutory accountability.
Underlying all of this however is the primary desire that Government listen to what the people are saying in terms of the central issue of affordability.
If that means reverting to a system of payment by progressive taxation, then I would be happy for that to happen. But I would still say that the measures in this PMB would be valid for any other agency which would emerge in the wake of that happening, because as things stand there is no sense of genuine accountability out there.
The proposals in my Bill are an attempt to remedy that democratic deficit, especially in light of the unfortunate political reality which this Government continues to insist will prevail, namely that Irish Water is here for the long term.
I wish it were not so, but since this is the reality for now we should be doing everything we can to restrain and limit the ability of Irish Water to act in a democratic vacuum,” concluded Deputy McGrath.