Thursday, November 27, 2014

A LOT of political spin was put on the government’s solution to solving the Irish Water problem last week. But when you sit back and think about it, you will get a good idea of what this government is all about – appearing to listen, doing a lot of work, running up a lot of cost but achieving very little.

Granted, water charges have been greatly reduced, for the next few years at least. And yes, there are a few other little gems in there as well, such as PPS numbers no longer being required – once regarded as an essential item to make the payment scheme work.

But what about the notion of people paying for the service and then getting a rebate?

Collecting the water charges will be very costly. Then there’s the administration of the 100 grant. Again, this will cost money, not to mention all the hours it will take to track who has paid, who is entitled to the grant and dealing with all the problematic cases that will surely arise.

So here we are, spending an awful lot of money to distribute money, but very little is being done to improve our water supply, the infrastructure needed to deliver it and the conservation measures that are required.

There was a lot of talk about government ministers listening to the people but, at the end of the day, it was really a case of how much should we do to calm the crowd, so to speak, while all the time keeping an eye on the next general election.

It makes you wonder why Irish Water was set up in the first place, or why was it so important that it happened in double-quick time. At the outset, we were told there wasn’t a penny to spare and that was why we had to pay, but now we are being told there is no problem with government providing almost €100 million to soften the anger of potential voters.

Interestingly, I happened to speak to a person who has worked on water-related projects for local authorities in the past. Since the creation of Irish Water, he said that all he can look forward to is not working for that company in the future.

In the past, he and other small operators were able to provide a service to local authorities in this area, but no longer. The requirements to qualify to go to procurement are so stringent that he cannot meet them. Hence, no local supplier will be involved.

Sadly, despite what the organisers of a recent protest in Tallaght may contend, there has been an element of violence at recent rallies. Hopefully, this will not deter other protesters from continuing their campaign to have the new company scrapped. Two months ago, it looked as though the government was going to ram the new company down our throats – but not any more.

If the campaign continues in an orderly fashion, we may eventually get to a point where the government will finally admit it was wrong and revert back to the drawing board.

If that happens, it would be a huge affirmation that when the people express opposition to an unjust imposition, the impossible can be achieved.

 

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By Michael Godfrey
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