I had hoped not to feel the need to revisit the Irish Water situation but there seems to be so much going on with the whole subject being totally and utterly shrouded in idiocy, incompetence, ignorance and plain non-joined up thinking. I'm afraid the latest series of fiascos leaves me with no option but to have yet another go at our dear politicians and the Civil Servants who we are told are, "world-class quality", for which we, the taxpayer must pay "world-class salaries" for which in respect of Irish water legislation, we seem to have got "world-class cock up". In short, the politicians, the civil service and all their advisers seem, in respect of water, to have developed something far more than just a casual blind spot.
Even when Irish Water was first set up, the project seemed to be very poorly thought out. What appeared to be lacking was what would and would not be acceptable within the framework of EU law. The local politicians seem to either laud Irish Water as "private" or when convenient, consider it as an arm of government or just not to have any opinion at all. The conversation with the EU seems to have taken place rather late in the day when the government submitted its "accounts" to Eurostat. At this point, the EU pointed out that the financial costs attributable to Irish Water were not shown in the national accounts. The government's view clearly being that Irish Water was a private company. The EU however, held the view that Irish Water was an agency controlled by the government, ergo an arm of government or, to put it quite bluntly, a QUANGO. Grumpy must ask, did anyone in the government or the Civil Service (who no doubt would have drafted the legislation) know what they were setting up or how to do it? Or even seek advice on the EU legality of what they were proposing? It would certainly seem not.
Come the General Election, it was hard to see the party leaders for the dust, fog and total and utter confusion generated as they all jockeyed for position. Grumpy was astounded to hear that one of the parties was encouraging people to break the law. Grumpy is tempted to ask, how does Joe public know which laws he can break and which he can't? There were red lines to keep Irish Water and red lines to abolish it. In this example, Grumpy must ask, if Irish Water is a private company, how are the government going to abolish it, and how are they going to stop the charges being legally levied by the company? One thing that soon became clear was that the politicians were putting party politics and personal leadership aspirations before anything and everything else, including common sense and the nation's best interests.
Things seemed to go relatively quiet for a bit until, at the behest of Irish Water (?) The EU published a ruling suggesting it was not possible for the government to legally abolish water charges!
The EU ruling read "if the established practice is to have a system in place implementing the recovery of the costs of water services, in accordance with the polluter pays principle, the commission considers that the flexibility afforded member states would not apply"
Historically, this particular situation arose after the implementation of the EU water framework directive in 2000. This was designed to improve the quality of water and introduce the concept of the polluter pays across the EU. Ireland was the sole member country not to introduce water charges.
Ireland was given an exemption (derogation) from introducing such charges provided it could provide evidence that the directive would eventually be "obeyed" (Grumpy's quotes) and that it was custom and practice not to impose such charges.
The rub comes the minute the State accepts the principle of cost recovery by water charges through the establishment of Irish Water. Once this is initiated, that derogation becomes null and void. Furthermore, once this rubicon has been passed, there is no going back (to an exemption).
In detail, the legal opinion stated, “Moreover, the Irish State has never sought to invoke
The barristers add that the State has never purported to advance reasons which would justify it not fully applying the EU water framework directive. They go on to say that three criteria must be met to avail of the derogation in article 9(4) of the directive.
“First; a ‘decision’ must be made in accordance with ‘established principles’ not to apply the
recovery of costs provisions.< br/>
Secondly; the purposes and the achievement of the objectives of the directives must not be
Thirdly; the reasons for not applying the recovery of costs provisions must be reported in the river basin management plans."
“None of these conditions are fulfilled in the case of the Irish State,” the barristers state.
“In our opinion, the Irish State is therefore obliged to continue to impose charges for domestic water services”.
What a tangled web we weave, it is clear to Grumpy, that the government is sailing into very muddy waters on this matter. And is probably well and truly up the creek without a paddle.
Grumpy gets very annoyed when he hears the extreme looney left wing politicians banging on about "Ireland paying for its water through general taxation". A couple of points on that matter are; this may have been the situation, but once Irish Water had been established, that particular situation had been abolished for good.
Ireland may have been paying for its water through a "general taxation" fund, but judging by the reported state of the water system "general taxation" has been using the money for everything but water! What astonishes Grumpy is that these left-wing politicians cannot see, that 100 years of the non-system they are eschewing has produced a water system that is creaking at the seams, leaking like a sieve and poisoning large sections of the community with lead from lead pipes. The sewage disposal systems are in many cases non-existent, outdated, technically inadequate or just plain overloaded. What goes on between their ears to support a system that blatantly doesn't work and hasn't done so for the last hundred years, beggars belief!
The beauty of Irish Water is that money collected by the "Company" is ring fenced, segregated, separately accounted for, separated from "general taxation" and is therefore to be used solely for the supply of water and maintenance and improvement of the water supply and waste disposal systems. And that really is the simple nub of why Irish Water, be it privately owned, government-owned or even owned by the man in the moon, it is a concept that should be supported wholeheartedly and embraced by the community as a whole.
So, what have our parliamentary representatives decided to do about all of this. Effectively what seems to be on the cards at the moment is nothing, bar "waste some more taxpayers money". What is being proposed is a committee to investigate the best way forwards in this water saga! Grumpy feels this is typical of what goes on at government level. Or, when in doubt, do nowt! Yes the committee is supposed to report in a couple of years. But then of course, these are government years (each being two or three calendar years long) and the committee will spend a shed load of money working out that we need an independent organisation to sort out our water infrastructure. Grumpy must ask, what the hell is Irish Water charged with?
But what else has been going on with Irish Water? Well, on the sidelines I read that on the back of the Irish Water QUANGO yet another QUANGO has been established! This new one is called "the Local Authorities Water and Communities Office". This office, with an annual cost of around €1.7 million and an initial life of five years (that's over €8 million. How many leaks would that fix? Or how many sewage treatment works would that bring up to modern standards?) It was established in the then minister' s home constituency. Who said nepotism was dead and who in the government has previously said they are going to crack down on nepotism and chronyism?
I cannot resist making comment on a snippet I heard from a young gentleman who lives nearby. He was not paying his water bill because, he suggested that the chairman of Irish Water was a purely political appointment (he inferred, based on cronyism) and then went on saying that a major contract being awarded by Irish Water was going to a company based in Australia of all places! Oh yes, I forgot to say, the Australian company is owned by the Chairman's daughter, who said nepotism was dead?
On a final note, I must add in a couple of comments that I received via twitter, I take the
liberty are responding to them here.
on 27th April, Patrick Gilmartin said;
@Grumpyoldmanco it's over lad get over it you lost privatisation is dead
It's amazing how many inaccuracies and misconceptions one can put out in 140 odd characters! Mr Gilmartin says "you lost" (meaning Grumpy) I would beg to differ in that the people who have lost are the Irish people at large who, when they go swimming in the sea can frequently only go through the motions, and after that, they go home to drink a cold refreshing drink of Miwadi made with their lead contaminated water that they have had to boil anyway, to make it half potable!
Secondly, privatization is not dead because there never was privatization, Irish Water was and, in its current guise, always will be a government QUANGO.
also on 27th pril, Michael McCormick said;
@Grumpyoldmanco no pun intended? How is water to be paid for? Cut what other state budget line? Hmm. I agree with you.
I don't think that requires much comment beyond asking the extreme loony left if they would like to answer the two questions honestly! So often politicians of all shapes, sizes and colours offer the electorate the moon without ever admitting where the moon is going to come from. However, I would remind them all of the old adage which you will find elsewhere on Grumpy's site which says;
you can fool some of the people all of the time
and you can fool all of the people some of the time
but you will never fool all of the people all of the time
It would do the politicians, who after all are elected by you, me and the electorate at large to remember this simple adage. They are there under our sufferance, and suffer is what we seem to be doing.
They should remember that nothing is perfect and for the large majority of problems there are many solutions, usually each potential solution has much to commend it, but doesn't solve everything. It is most unusual to find a perfect solution to a problem. Grumpy would be one of the first to admit, Irish Water isn't perfect but it is a workable solution to the problem and it is getting things fixed now. Why not let them get on with it and make minor adjustments as they prove necessary in the fullness of time. The big thing about Irish Water is the method of funding. Let's be honest, nobody enjoys paying their bills, whatever they are for. In the case of Irish Water at least we know that our money is being used to fix the antique, antiquated and unhealthy national water infrastructure. Perhaps even providing proper segregated funding for the improvement and expansion of the system. Or alternatively Irish Water, being a separate company or even QUANGO is in a situation to sell sensibly priced investment bonds ("loan bonds backed by subscription") in order to raise 'lump some capital' to invest in the supply of new capital infrastructure above and beyond that which is in place at the moment.
I would make a wry observation with the imminent BREXIT referendum. One of the major points being considered is UK national sovereignty. Grumpy hesitates to suggest that the sorry tale detailed above illustrates just how much national sovereignty the European Union has slowly and steadily winkled away. He could say that the Big Boys in the EU are slowly but surely drowning the inimitable Irish way of doing things. And, come to that, inevitably the Austrian, French, Spanish, Italian or Greek way of doing things will also be going the same way.
Grumpy must ask is that what the Irish and other EU countries really want? In their heart of hearts I think not. But then that is a totally different topic!
since writing this grump, there has been what I hope will be the final scene in the farce enacted by the Irish Parliament. This final scene again demonstrates that Politicians around the world frequently appear to be completely lacking in common sense. To Grumpy, the system put in place regarding Irish water charges and the use to which that money was to be applied made eminent common sense, particularly when one hears about the vast quantities of treated water going to waste (some figures say as much as a third). Since the company "Irish Water" was established, lead piping in the system