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Order of Business

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Senator David Cullinane

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I also wish to raise the issue of Irish Water. A previous speaker said the Government's plan was illogical. To an extent, one could argue that it is, given all of the failures of Irish Water and water charges. There is a very clear logic to what the Government is doing with the water conservation grant and other measures, which is to entice people to register and then pay, even if they do not want to do so. There is a clear logic, even in terms of the seven-year investment plan which was announced today by Irish Water and its parent company. I heard some of their representatives on national radio this morning talk about the plan, but it is not grounded in reality. There is no acceptance that this will be a big political and electoral issue. I accept that the Government parties have their view on Irish Water and water charges and the Opposition has a different view. There will be a general election and the issue will be a central part of the campaign. We can all outline our positions and the people will decide. I have no difficulty with this. However, the plan ignores EUROSTAT's ruling. Irish Water is behaving as if it is a commercial semi-State company, even though EUROSTAT has stated it is not. The company talks about €2 billion being raised in revenue from residential customers by 2021, but it ignores the fact that almost half have not paid and that is half of those who have registered, never mind those who have not registered.
There are clear problems with the Government's strategy, but the foundations on which the seven-year investment plan is being built must be examined. The reality is that what Irish Water is stating about its seven-year plan is that the money is going to come from commercial water rates, domestic water rates and borrowing. All of the borrowing will be on the State balance sheet, which means that every cent is coming from either businesses in the State, citizens who pay and borrowings. A massive investment plan is envisaged, yet there is no discussion or debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Dáil is not scheduled to debate the seven-year plan and neither has such a debate been scheduled in the Seanad. This is taxpayers’ money. In spite of EUROSTAT's ruling, given that this is a fully owned public company, as the Government has indicated, and the fact that it should not be treated as a private company - the Government has stated it does not want to privatise water services - the whole logic behind the seven-year investment plan appears to be to ultimately move towards privatisation. The plan should be brought to the Seanad and the Dáil to be debated. We will have a political debate and a debate during the electoral campaign about the future of Irish Water and water charges. That will happen as a matter of course, but the plan should be brought before the Dáil and the Seanad to be debated. Let us have a debate about the foundations on which it is built, which are very shaky, ignore EUROSTAT's ruling and the obvious fact that many people in the State have not and will not pay for domestic water charges.