Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has said there is widespread concern that the introduction of domestic water metering and water charges, and the establishment of Irish Water will eventually lead to the privatisation of water services.
Mr Adams was speaking during Dáil Private Members’ Time in which Sinn Féin proposed a Bill (the 34th Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2014) to allow for a referendum to retain control of water services in public ownership.
Speaking this evening Gerry Adams said:
“Taoiseach, citizens are sick to the teeth of your government’s agenda of relentless austerity and your endless list of taxes and charges aimed at those on low and middle incomes. For many, your water tax is the final straw.
“Despite the thousands upon thousands who have taken to the streets on this issue, you and your government have dismissed their concerns.
“Part of the instinctive anger and rejection of your proposals around a water tax come from the instinctive understanding among Irish people that water is the most basic of resources.
“Water is a basic requirement for the maintenance of human life and health. Water is what we use to cook, to wash, to drink.
“Successive Irish governments have abjectly failed to properly manage or exploit Irish natural resources for the benefit of Irish citizens. Instead, our natural resources have either been under utilised or sold off to private and foreign interests. The most notorious recent example of this was the disgraceful squandering of our natural gas rights.
“There is a deep and widespread concern that the metering of domestic water and the imposition of water charges, and the establishment of Irish Water, is all about setting up the State’s water services for privatisation. The belief is that the ultimate aim of establishing Irish Water is to commodify water and to eventually privatise water supply.
“We have already seen this process unfold previously with Eircom, and more recently when the establishment of Bord Gáis, which was simply the precursor to selling off that important public asset.
“In Sinn Féin’s view, it makes no sense to throw away decades of state investment through these type of sell-offs. But crucially, when it comes to something as basic as water, we will oppose tooth and nail the attempt to turn a natural and vital resource into a commodity. Any move to privatise water would ensure even higher water charges for consumers than those already suggested.
“In the North, Sinn Féin has prevented the introduction of water charges and the privatisation of the water services and will continue to do so.
“This Constitutional Amendment Bill allows for a referendum to retain control of water services in public ownership. The bill seeks to enshrine access to clean water in the Constitution and to protect this access for future generations.
“The European Commission has already received the European Citizens Initiative on the Right to Water. This contained two million signatures urging the EU to implement the human right to water and sanitation.
“Over 90% of citizens in both Italy and Greece voted in referendums to ensure that water privatisation systems were not implemented. The Netherlands passed a law in 2004 banning private sector provision of water supply.
“There has been no satisfactory explanation of the government’s reluctance to hold a referendum on water ownership. Labour Senators voted in favour of this. Labour TDs are on record as supporting the idea.
“If, as the government tells us, there are no plans for the privatisation of Irish Water, then they should fully support this bill.
“Taoiseach, today in response to a question from me as to whether you would support the bill, you listed among your objections that it had implications for private property rights.
“I am sure you are aware of the words of Pádraic Mac Piarais in the Sovereign Nation when he wrote that:
‘No private right to property is good as against the public right of the nation’.
“Surely, there is no more appropriate application of that sentiment than to the right of citizens to guaranteed access to something as basic as water? This Sinn Féin Bill is about making the import of Pearse’s words a reality. I urge all TDs to support it.”