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NEWS: IMF bailout means water charges for Irish homes

Irish media reports, “(Sinn Féin) Environment Spokesperson Deputy Brian Stanley said (in the Dáil, the lower house of the Irish parliament, in Dublin) that the (Fine Gael and Labour coalition) government must abandon its plans to charge people for water which is a basic human right.” Currently, Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that does not have domestic water charges (instead costs are covered through the central taxation system and water charges on businesses). But, according to an Anglo-Celt report, “A spokesman for the Department of the Environment (says), ‘The water charges have to be in place before the end of 2013 to comply with the IMF bailout conditions.'”

On November 28, 2010, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the Irish state agreed to a €85 billion loan to Ireland, including €22.5 billion from the IMF.

“The TD (meaning Member of Parliament) said: ‘The Sinn Féin motion opposes the proposed introduction of water charges and calls on the Government to abandon these plans. These proposed charges will only add to the huge burden of debt which already hangs over citizens’ heads. We have seen ruthless Government cuts to services, massive unemployment rates and a huge increase in the level of personal and mortgage debt. People simply cannot afford to keep paying for this Government and the previous Government’s mistakes. …On Thursday (June 16) afternoon my party will table a motion which calls on to abandon their plans to impose water charges on households. We are calling for the Government to stop their plans to spend between €500 million and €1 billion on the installation of water meters. This money would be put to far better use upgrading the antiquated distribution network which would more than pay for itself as well as being a much needed job creation mechanism. …We believe that the central taxation system is the only appropriate funding mechanism for domestic water.'”

Additionally, “Sinn Féin Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh said (the water charges) will only add further financial stress on families who are already struggling to cope. ‘We have called on the Government to stick to what they said prior to the election, which was to oppose water charges,’ he said.”

The Anglo-Celt adds, “It’s not yet clear if low-income households will get a waiver and the charges will not be decided on for at least three years, (an environment department) spokesman added. Continuing the spokesman said no decision had been made as to what the free domestic allowance would be but one was expected by the end of the year.” The Irish Times reports that while Green Party leader John Gormley supports metering, “even he is considering giving every household a ‘free allocation’ and charging only for overconsumption, a formula experts in the area regard as problematic. ‘How can you tell from the outside how many people are living in a house?’ says one sceptic.”

Prior to the election of the current Irish government, the Irish Examiner reported in January 2010 that, “Householders could be hit with yearly water bills of between €300 to €400 from next year under (the Fianna Fáil) Government plans to install domestic meters in all homes. Environment Minister John Gormley yesterday revealed that €1 billion will have to be raised through water charges that will be imposed on 1.1 million homes to meet the cost of treating the water system. The figures would suggest an annual charge of €909 to all homes using public water supplies. But the Department of the Environment disputed this figure, indicating the Government may not attempt to recover the full cost of water treatment in the initial stages of domestic metering. Chambers Ireland, which has called for water charges to be extended from businesses to home-owners, estimate the new charges would amount to between €300 and €400 per home. …Socialist Party MEP for Dublin Joe Higgins said working people will stage ‘a huge campaign of non-payment and opposition’.”