Go gceadófar go dtabharfar isteach Bille dá ngairtear Acht chun an Bunreacht a leasú.
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Constitution.
The Bill proposes to insert a clause in Article 40 of the Constitution following a referendum on the ownership of Irish Water, water services and water infrastructure. There have been large-scale demonstrations over the weekend and one of the issues arising involves ownership and people's fears in that regard. People want to ensure that Irish Water does not slip into private ownership. When meters are put in place outside people's front doors, this brings in revenue and makes it attractive to large industrialists to cast their eyes over the infrastructure. That has happened with other sectors. I have heard the guarantees from the Government benches on this, but the company will be under the parent company Bord Gáis, part of which was privatised last year. This is the concern I have. While the legislation as currently framed does provide a level of protection for now, and the Act that came out at the far end of the legislative process last year says that Irish Water cannot be privatised, everyone here and most people outside know that a future Government can waltz in with a majority and push through a new Bill. The next thing will be an Act that allows for the privatisation of Irish Water. There could be a Government of a completely different make-up which does this.
We are committed to ensuring that water services stay in public ownership. Some Labour Party Ministers have said they are favourably disposed to a referendum. I heard Deputy Joe Costello saying it over the weekend. There are people on the Government benches clearly saying this, but it was disappointing to hear the Taoiseach say today that he will not have a referendum. The people own the water supply and the infrastructure, not the Deputies in the House or the Government. This is the people's resource. The Government says it has given cast-iron commitments not to privatise Irish Water in future. There will be referendums next year and there is an opportunity, as one of them, to put this proposal to the people to give them ownership of the water system. Up to 1 January the people owned this, but ownership was taken from them by the Government when the function was removed from local authorities. It should be given back and the opportunity for a referendum provided. There are those on the Government benches who seem disposed towards this and I ask the Government to facilitate a referendum by allowing the Bill to proceed.