Photo: There have been major protests across Ireland against Irish Water and water metering.
The Blue Planet Project has made a submission to a commission examining the future of water charges in Ireland.
Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow sets the context, “In May 2011 the government of Ireland signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to reform its water sector to comply with strict new austerity measures. The government then established a public water utility called Irish Water, with a clear mandate to operate as a private company. In exchange for an 85-billion-euro bailout for the country, the MOU required that ‘public provision of water services is to end and this function is to be transferred to a utility company’, and it further committed Ireland to move toward full cost recovery through water metering. Water resources are abundant in Ireland, and until the creation of the new utility, water services for residents had been delivered free of charge. Costs were paid for through tax revenues and by charging commercial users.”
Irish Water began sending bills to homes in January 2015, but that was suspended this July for the rest of the year as the commission deliberates on how to fund the water system.
In her submission to the Expert Independent Water Commission, Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan writes, “The setting up of Irish water and a compulsory metering strategy aimed at cost recovery are signature strategies of the World Bank and regional development banks to prime public utilities for private sector participation. Devoid of human rights and public interest considerations the proposal to reform the Irish public model in order to introduce commercial practices is a frequently used strategy for incentivizing private investors. …The Blue Planet Project is highly concerned that the reforms to the water sector in Ireland do not meet basic human rights standards and will adversely affect the public health, social and economic well being of vulnerable and marginalized populations in Ireland without truly addressing environmental concerns associated with water consumption.”
Our Irish water justice allies will be highlighting these concerns at a media conference on Tuesday (September 13).
Today, the Irish Examiner reports, “The commission set up to examine water charges has confirmed that it will hold all meetings behind closed doors, despite initial signs that there would be public hearings. The admission comes after claims the submission period was rushed and, after the resignation of its former chairman Joe O’Toole. The Irish Examiner has learned that all hearings will be in private due to ‘time constraints’. …The commission also defended its decision to seek submissions during the month of August, at the height of the holiday period.”
The commission will present its report in late-November. That report will then be examined by a committee of Dail Éireann (Assembly of Ireland) deputies who will later vote on the issue.
The Blue Planet Project stands in solidarity with the water justice and anti-austerity movements in Ireland.
Barlow met with Right2Water activists in Dublin in November 2015, and addressed the Right2Change conference in Dublin this past February, just weeks before the national election there. In October 2014, Karunananthan wrote Right2Water Ireland campaign spokesperson David Gibney to state, “The Blue Planet Project wishes to express its solidarity with people in Ireland who are protesting the installation of water meters and introduction of tariffs. …As recently witnessed in Detroit, once unsustainable and undemocratic tariffication systems are imposed, the poor pay a larger share of their household income for common services and are made vulnerable by the threat of shut-offs and penalties when unable to pay.”
Numerous blogs chronicling the Irish struggle for water justice can be read here.