Councillor: Anti-water charges campaign not to blame for crisis

Councillor: Anti-water charges campaign not to blame for crisis
 Members of the Defence Forces from Costume Barracks, Athlone help locals fill their water containers in Rathoath, Co. Meath earlier this week. Picture Colin Keegan

A WORKERS’ Party councillor has rejected any suggestion that populism or the anti-water charges campaign are to blame for the water crisis in the Louth/Meath area.

Cork City Councillor Ted Tynan said that the many issues in the country’s water and sewage infrastructure had its origins in decades of underfunding of local government and key infrastructure.

He also pointed the finger at what he described as long-term tax underpayment by big business in this country.

Speaking to the Evening Echo this week, former Bord Gáis CEO John Mullins, said the failure of Irish Water to secure its own funding outside general taxation would lead to serious problems down the line.

While he did not directly blame the anti-water charge campaign he pointed out that, as a result of the water charges debacle, water infrastructure would be up against housing, health and other departments in the annual fight for budget funding.

He suggested this made it almost impossible to plan the kind of multi-year investment that our water network badly needs.

But Cllr Tynan holds an opposing view and said The Workers Party favoured water costs remaining in the general taxation bundle.

“We totally reject that argument,” he said.

“An elected Government should sit down around the cabinet table. They discuss the issues — health, education, housing and water infrastructure.

“What they do then is produce a budget and if there’s a shortage of money then they increase taxation, tax the wealth in this country.

“We live in a wealthy country despite the image given that the Government have only so much money to play with.

“They will not tax the wealthy people of this country.”

Cllr Tynan’s view was the finger of blame should instead be pointed towards those who allowed maintenance of the system to lapse in the past two decades.

“The severe deterioration in the country’s water and waste system did not begin today or yesterday,” he said.

“This has been a process over many decades.

“While the Workers’ Party and others were demanding the upgrade of this infrastructure and proper spending on housing and local government groups such as Cork Chamber, of which Mr. Mullins is a former president, were demanding cutbacks and they were calling for tax amnesties and the privatisation of publicly owned state companies.

“It is these policies and not populism which got us where we are today.”

Bill O’Connell, current president of Cork Chamber, said he would not be drawn into a discussion on past events, but reiterated the group’s backing of water charges.

“The Chamber has always supported the introduction of domestic water charges,” he said.

“Businesses have always historically been the only people paying for it and we do have years of under investment. I think what we need to do is put some kind of a secure funding stream together for our water system to be upgraded.

“If we introduce domestic water charges and they are part of a funding model it would go part of the way in solving the infrastructure problems we currently face in Ireland.”

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