What happened to our right to water referendum in the Programme for Government?

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We’re gonna find out later today if we have a new government but there’s been very little analysis of the actual contents of the PfG. I spotted something I thought was very interesting though.

Under the Green New Deal section there a sentence that says:

“we will: Implement the recommendations of the Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services in relation to excess use.”

What’s really interesting about this line is that it conveniently ignores all of the other 7 recommendations from that committee. The first recommendation was, of course, the right to water referendum which would enshrine public ownership of our water system in the constitution, preventing any future government from privatising it.

Strangely, on Sunday 14th June, according to RTE, the right to water referendum was included in the PfG.

All of a sudden, when the full document is released a few days later, it’s been deleted… why? Who looked for it to be removed?

The legislation from Joan Collins TD calling for a water referendum passed unanimously in the Dail in 2016. Since then, FG, backed by FF, have blocked any progress through the Oireachtas.

Why? … because Fine Gael and others have every intention of allowing the privatisation of our water in the future.

They won’t say it publicly because it wont win many votes, but if it wasn’t the plan, and if every party in the state supposedly supports the right to water referendum, why was it removed from the PfG?

The special Oireachtas committee on water was a follow up to the government’s “expert commission” on water. That report had 9 recommendations, and number one was, again, the right to water referendum.

That report said that almost 50% of our water is leaked, while almost half of all companies are not paying their water bills and bottled water companies like Ballygowan can take as much water as they want for no cost.

Recent reports also show that data centres are using hundreds of millions of litres of water with Facebooks using more water than 8,600 residents in Kildare town on an annual basis. And there are 55 of those data centres with another 31 in the pipeline.

Soon data centres will be using more water in Ireland than over 800,000 people… yet we have a hosepipe ban because of “droughts” and the target for “excessive use” is households, not companies.

Remember, even before any data centres opened, we know that Irish households only used 23% of water while “industry” — companies and agriculture — used 77%.

Yet, again, for so called “conservation” reasons, households are the target.

The truth is, if they can get excessive usage charges in place, it means metering and consequently a revenue stream to sell off Irish Water in the future.

Water is now the most valuable commodity on the planet, with water companies in the UK making three times the profits of oil or gas.

We’re about to enter into another recession… Does anyone actually believe the government won’t sell off Irish Water to the highest bidder given half a chance?

Or that in the event of a bailout, the EU or IMF wont force the privatisation of our water like they did in Greece?

The parties will say there’s legislation to prevent privatisation but that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on because any future government can change legislation.

Somebody deleted the reference to the right to water referendum in the PfG for a reason.

They did so despite the fact that the referendum was the number one recommendation from both the expert commission on water and the special Oireachtas committee on water.

And despite the fact that all parties in the Oireachtas voted in favour of having the referendum.

The reason to me is clear. This programme for government is pro-privatisation. They want you to use less water so big companies can use more.

If this were truly a “Green New Deal”, and they were genuinely concerned about conservation, they’d focus on where our water is actually wasted.

That’s in the 50% of water leaked from the system before it gets to our taps, and through targeting industries that use more than three quarters of our water, including data centres. Instead they’ll spend hundreds of millions of euros going after households who use a fraction of that amount.

We have enough wealth and resources to tackle climate change and the fallout from the pandemic, but it’s about who is made pay. If it isn’t the wealthy and it isn’t corporations, then who do you think it’s going to be?

They made us pay for a banking crisis that was not of our making, don’t let them make us pay for a climate crisis and a pandemic not of our making.

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