News

Water Charges, Gormley’s new tax

Can you afford to pay this double tax?

Communities across the Country are preparing to meet the government head- on over plans to introduce water charges. Families hard-hit by the recession will face new charges that could soar to over €1000 according to campaigners, who say people can’t and won’t pay this double-tax.

Recent Dublin anti-water charges meeting, pic by Michael Gallagher

The Department of the Environment have confirmed that they hope to roll out new “smart metres” to homes across the country in the coming months paving the way for the charge to be brought in as soon as next year.

Environment Minister, John Gormley TD has stated that the Government hopes to squeeze €1 billion a year from householders with the charges. However the government have been promised that they will have a fight on their hands as left-activists call for a campaign of civil disobedience against what they say is a “double tax”.

In February, following an invitation from Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins, over 100 delegates from a broad range of community and political groupings met in the Teachers Club in Dublin.

The packed meeting, which featured representatives from across the left, discussed strategies learnt in the previous bin and water charges campaign as well as issues around wealth and taxation policy in Ireland.

Gregor Kerr, former secretary of the Federation of Anti-Water Charges Campaign explained that in the mid ‘90s thousands of people refused to pay the double tax and managed to beat it and he believes this will happen again.

“It will be a challenge to build another strong campaign but the Government will face serious opposition, Hopefully, communities will put their weight behind this all across the city. People are ready to take a stand.”

Mr Kerr explained that in the previous campaign of mass non-payment solidar- ity between communities in struggle was the key to victory. Organised across Dublin, the campaign made the charge unworkable and local authorities were forced to back down.

“Thousands of people simply refused to pay,” he added. “We made it unmanageable and uncol- lectible. People were reconnected when they were cut off.

“Neighbours would show up in court to support each other and legal challenges were launched to prevent the courts forcing people to pay. That’s how we beat it and we’ll do it again.”

Workers’ Party Councillor Ted Tynan has highlighted the situation in Britain where after privatization water charges increased dramatically while the profits of the water companies rocketed up to 1000% in the space of a few years.

Tynan highlighted the alarming number of disconnections, which rose 177 per cent, while 10,000 jobs were lost as water companies sought to cut costs even further.

“While it is accepted that this country and the world will face moreand more water shortages in the future, the fact is that it is the management of water, not its availability, is the real crisis,” Tynan added.

“Advocates of privatisation ignore the fact that there have been years of under- investment in our water system and that it has been deliberately run down to pre- pare it for privatisation.”

Tynan added that the Workers Party have been opposing double taxations such as these for over 25 years, since they were first introduced by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government.

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6 Comments

  1. Paul
    March 25, 2010 at 12:32 am

    Typical of the greens to sell us out, no backbone at all.

  2. Pidge
    March 26, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Bizarre that you regard this as a “sell out”.

    First off, it’s always been Green policy to have water charges based on consumption. This isn’t some sort of Fianna Fáil policy the party is swallowing, it’s a Green one. Campaigners are right to suggest that previous water charges (which were arbitrary and unrelated to excessive consumption) are a form of double-taxation, since they don’t serve any other purpose other than raising money. Metering by consumption is different, since the primary purpose of it is to reduce and control consumption of water, which is – unlike many seem to assume – is incredibly expensive to produce and transport, and also increasingly scarce.

    Secondly, the idea that water charges are regressive is true. In exactly the same way that charges for bread, electricity, and telephone usage are. The difference with a regressive tax is simple: the policy proposed by the Greens includes a free quota which people can use up without paying a penny. It’s not economically efficient, but does ensure that families can access the required amount of water without danger of being disconnected, and makes the tax less regressive.

    Thirdly, the idea of privatisation (which takes up about half of this article) is a damp squib. It’s not being proposed, nor is it supported by the Greens or Fianna Fáil. I imagine Labour and SF don’t support it either, so I can’t see how privatisation (which is a bloody awful idea) even enters into this conversation, except to bulk up articles and draw false parallels.

    Water charges aren’t perfect, but if people can’t come up with a better way to stop domestic water wastage, then this issue won’t go away, and the effect of any campaign by the left will be temporary at best.

  3. Sean
    March 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Pidge – electricity, bread and telephone lines don’t fall out of the sky – water does. The whole purpose of charging for water is to make it attractive for privatisation. Who is wasting all that water – answer – the water suppliers waste far more than ordinary domestic users.

    The Greens haven’t said what the “free quota” of water for householders will be. Will it be based on the number of people in the house?

    Privatisation is not only being proposed, but is being actively promoted by the European Union and pushed even more so since the Lisbon Treaty was passed (thanks to the imposition of a second referendum when FF and the Greens didn’t like the result of the first one). We already have maintenance of the water system being contracted out to private firms, some of them such as Veolia already in the water privatisation business abroad.

    Take the green tinted specs off Paul and see the reality that the Green Party has sold out to Fianna Fáil – lock, stock and barrel.

  4. Sean
    March 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    sorry, last remark should have been addressed to Pidge, not Paul – mea culpa.

  5. noel
    March 29, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Is there a water shortage in Ireland ? ,the last I remember they had to open up the resevoir’s in case they burst their bank’s, causing worse flooding in some townlands.There’s so much water in this country we should be charging for taking it off them.This is not a conservation issue it’s just a green disguised utility tax.Fianna Fail are pass master’s at getting the junior party to do the dirty work.

  6. March 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Saturday, 27th March 2010

    Mounting a major protest outside the Green Party convention in Waterford today the Workers Party, Munster Region stated: “The Green Party are here today flaunting their Mercs and perks, and clapping themselves on the back for their work in government. If they had a shred of political principle left they would use this weekend to apologise to the electorate for their betrayal of trust and walk away from this unholy coalition”.

    “The record of this government – which the Green Party is promoting and defending here today – is truly awful.

    · €12 billion spent or committed to Anglo Irish Bank. This is the same as the annual budget for our health service.

    · NAMA set up to bail out the bankers and builders with up to €50 billion of our money. No support for struggling mortgage holders; businesses, or family farms.

    · Attacking the most vulnerable children in the state – with a one-third reduction in Special Needs Assistants in primary schools.

    · Cutting the wages of private and public sector workers but flatly refusing to tax the wealthy elite in this country.

    · Cutting Social Welfare and Disability payments – attacking those who cannot fight back.

    · Double Tax on families with the introduction of Domestic Water Charges which the Green Party are sponsoring.

    · Minister Eamon Ryan forcing hundreds of thousands of families to pay higher electricity bills because he will not allow the ESB to cut their prices.

    · Health service collapsing while consultants earn half a million Euro.

    · Allowing 250,000 armed US troops fly through Shannon airport every year – despite a solemn Green Party commitment to stop this illegal traffic.

    · Giving Shell Oil and other multinationals our oil and gas for free while local people who protest at this robbery are locked up in jail.

    · Refusing to prioritise a Children’s Rights Amendment to the Irish Constitution.

    · Refusing to make the Catholic Church authorities accountable after the terrible crimes revealed by the Ryan and Murphy reports.

    “Before the 2007 General Election Minister Gormley got a lot of publicity for his staged confrontations with then PD leader Michael McDowell. Now he acts like a McDowell shadow. The Green Party cheated the electorate. If they have one shred of decency or morality left they should walk away from this government and let the people have their say”.