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 Header Item Water Services Bill 2014: Committee Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for the Public Services 2014: Messages from Select Committees

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 861 No. 1

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews] Water is an essential element for the life of the people living in the State. Therefore, it should absolutely be constitutionally within the ownership of the State and the people of Ireland. It is very simple. Off-balance-sheet financing is being used to try to fund an entity which will require approximately €10 billion to have it in working order, fix leaks, have proper reservoirs and capacity and water treatment plants. Here is a suggestion: if the Government showed a bit of courage and capability it would say to Draghi and the EU Commission that €25 billion of misplaced losses on the Irish people would be corrected and that €10 billion of it would be allocated in the first instance to the water supply and €15 billion to other capital projects in education, the health system, which is buckling, to support people who do not even have homes and to build homes. This €25 billion would go a long way and it should be used immediately. The bonds should be cancelled. It would give the necessary boost and resources to any Government to start the work of fair reconstruction of this country. The shoreline is always in the ownership of the State and water should always be in the ownership of the State. It is that simple.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I did not rule out of order any of the amendments. These decisions were made beyond me. Section 2 is a very important part of the Bill as everyone is aware. The provision safeguards the public ownership of Irish water and it provides for the holding of a plebiscite if any future Government proposes to change the ownership of Irish Water. Personally I do not think this will ever happen. I do not believe a future Government will in any way try to change the ownership of Irish Water. The section provides that where a Government proposes to initiate legislation to change the ownership, or would potentially do so, it must obtain a resolution from both Houses that they are in favour of the legislation. Subject to such resolutions being obtained, the Government would then hold a plebiscite of the people. The legislation could not proceed without the support of the people and this is quite clear. The section includes the provision that the details of the plebiscite would be set out in regulations.

The amendment tabled by Deputy Catherine Murphy refers to requiring the resolution from both Houses of the Oireachtas to be approved by two thirds of the Members. I cannot accept the amendment as it would place more stringent conditions on a future Government than applies at present. Amendment No. 5, tabled by Deputy Naughten, proposes that the holding of a plebiscite would require a resolution from each municipal district in addition to the resolution from both Houses of the Oireachtas. This condition is onerous and would be administratively quite cumbersome. Moreover I believe it is absolutely unnecessary and obviously I will not accept it.

Amendment No. 7 proposes amending the eligibility criteria for voting in the plebiscite. The Government believes the appropriate eligibility criteria to vote on ownership of such a vital national resource are the same as those for eligibility to vote in a referendum. Therefore I cannot accept the amendment tabled by Deputies Coppinger, Higgins and Murphy.

Amendment No. 8 proposes that a provision be inserted to state the Government shall not extend public moneys for the purposes of promoting a particular outcome of the plebiscite. Section 2(7) requires the Minister to publish details of the proposal and the reasons for it to be submitted to the people in the plebiscite. This amendment is unnecessary and I cannot accept it. Limits on the use of public moneys are detailed in electoral legislation so there is no need to repeat such provisions in this legislation.

Several other issues were raised by Deputies. Deputy O'Dowd raised some issues he feels need to be brought to my attention or the attention of the House. By all means he should please raise them here if he feels it appropriate to do so, or raise them with me in a private capacity, if that is appropriate for whatever reason.

Some of Deputy Donnelly's amendments were ruled out of order. The European Commission is obliged to protect national sovereignty in respect of the ownership of water services and has issued such communication to the Government in the recent past. I am quite happy to provide this communication to the Deputy.

  Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

Estimates for the Public Services 2014: Messages from Select Committees

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Select Sub-Committee on Children and Youth Affairs has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimate for Public Services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2014 - Vote 40.

  The Select Sub-Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimate for Public Services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2014 - Vote 25.

  The Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimates for Public Services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2014 - Votes 12 and 17.

  The Dáil adjourned at 1.05 a.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 December 2014.


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