Right2Water calls for abolition of water charges and a referendum to ensure water remains in public ownership

The trade unions affiliated to the Right2Water campaign have called for the immediate abolition of Irish Water and water charges once the Dail resumes on March 10th. Furthermore the campaign is demanding a referendum to enshrine ownership of our water supply in public hands preventing another Irish Water fiasco in the future.

The unions – including the CPSU, CWU, Mandate, OPATSI, TEEU and Unite the Union – said the election was effectively a referendum on water charges and public ownership and all political parties need to recognise the importance of this issue.

In support of water charges were Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Green Party, returning 57 seats. Those who campaigned in the election in opposition to water charges included Sinn Fein, AAA/PBP, Social Democrats, Independents and changing their position late in the game, Fianna Fail. Combined those representatives make up 99 seats.

Brendan Ogle, Right2Water coordinator said, “The extent to which water charges and Irish Water defined the election cannot be overstated. On its own the issue gave rise to the biggest protest movement per capita anywhere in the world today and the election results show that only 37 percent of those returned to the Dail are in favour of domestic water charges while 63 percent oppose them.

He added, “When campaigning for the General Election in 2011, the Labour Party won massive support for their stance against austerity and in particular their promise not to implement water charges. A promise they broke when they got into power and as we now know, they’ve been decimated as a result.

John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary said, “Only a matter of weeks ago, due to enormous pressure and because it was being raised at doorsteps all across the country, Fianna Fail changed their position and campaigned against water charges. This has obviously won them more seats. If they break that promise, it will be an attack on the democratic will of the people once again.

He added, “The Irish people have protested and marched against water charges in their hundreds of thousands for two years and they’ve now sent a strong statement to our politicians that we want water charges abolished and for water services to be paid for through general taxation, which is not only progressive and fair, it is also more economically and environmentally efficient.”

Stevie Fitzpatrick, CWU General Secretary said, “It simply isn’t good enough to kick the can down the road for a few years. We want the full abolition of water charges and we want a referendum as soon as possible. We all recognised the intention of water charges from the start, which was the future privatisation of our water industry. The mandate given to the Dail last Friday is to ensure that never happens.”

The Right2Water campaign issued a warning to the next Government.

“If the next Government, whatever it's make up, is to get off on the right foot it must heed the election results from the outset or face more protests and civil disobedience on this issue. Ireland leads the world in having zero water poverty through paying for water through progressive general taxation and we want to keep it that way,” said Mr Ogle.

He added, “If this is an election stunt where Fianna Fail think they can promise the abolition of water charges in a game of posture with Fine Gael, with the intention of winning even more seats when talks break down resulting in another election, they are sadly mistaken. The Irish electorate have shown they are much more sophisticated than that and they’ll see through these political games.”

Mr Ogle concluded, “The next Government should know by now that they can ignore water protesters at their peril.”