25/11/14 Senator Daly Speaks to the Seanad on Water Sector Reforms

Senator Daly: People are opposed to Irish Water because of the waste and the costs. From the outset, consultants advised against establishing Irish Water in the way that the Government has chosen. When the former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, came to the House or attended meetings with his own party members, he showed contempt for questions. We now see the consequences of this contempt. He did not answer the questions because he did not have the answers or, if he knew the answers, he was hiding them. The people have seen that Mr. Hogan was rewarded for setting up Irish Water, even though it is the greatest debacle of the year. They also see the amount of money that has been wasted since it was established. Only in Irish Water is a bonus not called a bonus. Employees of Irish Water actually get paid a bonus for underperforming. Spokespersons for the company went on national television to convince people that black is white and that a bonus is not a bonus. That is why people are angry. The reason they are on the streets now is that they cannot afford the charges. The Government had a range of options and, as Senator Barrett pointed out, a person with a swimming pool pays the same amount as someone who is trying to balance the budget at the end of the month. We know from the Irish League of Credit Unions that hundreds of thousands of people have only €10 remaining for discretionary spending at the end of the month. Many people do not even have that amount of money. Since 1 October, we have seen the Government do ten U-turns. It suspended charges until 1 January, introduced a household benefit package and fuel allowances, as well as tax relief for water charge payments, did away with the idea of water conservation, sidelined the free allowance, extended the application deadline to 30 November, introduced a flat rate and abandoned metering, suspended the bonus system, which we were told did not exist, and sidelined the Commission for Energy Regulation. Meanwhile, not a cent has been spent on infrastructure. These are the twists and turns of the 12 months since the Government was advised not to set up Irish Water in this way. The former Minister, Phil Hogan, rammed legislation through the Dáil to ensure it was not scrutinised properly.

To be honest, he never answered the questions. In some cases, this was because he did not have the answers and, in others, because he did not want to give them. Ministers should be held to account – that is what the Dáil and the Seanad are for. The former Minister, Mr. Phil Hogan, knew he was to be rewarded for the lasting legacy of Irish Water with a fine job in Europe, but that legacy will cost Irish taxpayers billions of euro. However, water quality will be no better next year or in 2016 because all of the investment is going into metering, which, in essence, is not taking place. As I said, people are angry because this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is one charge too many and the Government did not have to introduce it.

Senator Gilroy: Fianna Fáil brought it in.

Senator Daly: I remind my colleagues in the Labour Party that its manifesto stated there would be no water charges.

Senator Gilroy: We did not say that.

Senator Daly: That promise was made in the Labour Party’s election manifesto, with promises on education fees and other issues that were not kept. It is one thing to break a promise, but it is another to do so and cost taxpayers billions in the process. People are angry because of the waste involved. Money has been paid to consultants who have not been monitored. There were significant costs involved in setting up Irish Water, with bonuses being promised, and now people will be paid to drink water. It is a disgrace and, as Senator Sean D. Barrett pointed out, social welfare resources that are already stretched will now be utilised to make these water payments. All of this shows the lack of foresight and thinking when the Government set up Irish Water and it is why people oppose the entity. Fianna Fáil is against Irish Water and the process must stop before more money is wasted

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