Domestic Water Charges: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Eoin Ó Broin on Tuesday, 24 May 2015:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that a majority of Deputies elected to the Thirty-second Dáil made clear pre-election pledges to end water charges;
and calls on the Government to:
— immediately abolish domestic water charges;
— establish a public water and sanitation board to deliver water on the basis of need; and
— set a date for a referendum to enshrine the public ownership of water services in the Constitution of Ireland.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
supports the need for significant investment in upgrading Ireland’s public water and wastewater systems and improving the on-going management of the public water resource;
notes:
— that Irish Water will be retained as a single national utility, in public ownership, with responsibility for the delivery of public water and waste water services; and
— the improvements made by Irish Water since its establishment as a national utility, in:
— increasing capital investment, with some €550 million to be invested in 2016;
— prioritising the elimination of boil water notices;
— placing a greater focus on reducing leakage;
— the over 39 million litres of water per day already being saved as a result of the ‘Free First Fix’ scheme and domestic customer repairs;
— the 500 kilometres of pipework repaired or replaced over the past two and a half years;
— increasing Dublin’s spare water capacity; and
— dealing with issues arising from lead pipes identified as part of the metering programme;
welcomes the commitment of the Government to establish:
— an expert advisory body on a statutory basis to advise on measures to improve the transparency and accountability of Irish Water and to give quarterly reports on its performance in relation to its business plan to an Oireachtas committee; and
— an expert commission to make recommendations for the sustainable long-term funding model for the delivery of domestic water and wastewater services by Irish Water; and
notes that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will shortly introduce a Bill to suspend domestic water charges for a period of nine months from the end of the current billing cycle; this will be extended by the Government if this is required and requested by the special Oireachtas committee established to consider the recommendations of the expert commission, to facilitate the completion of its work and consideration of, and voting upon, its recommendations by the Oireachtas.
-(Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government)

I wish to share time with Deputies Michael Fitzmaurice and Gino Kenny.

Is that agreed? Agreed. The clock is ticking.

The clock is ticking for the Government because it seems as if it has given up on trying to pursue the question of water charges. It is to be hoped that after this debate we will well and truly bury the question of Irish Water as well.

It is unfortunate for the public that the motion before the House was not, as per normal democratic processes, brought to the floor of the House 12 weeks ago when we were elected. It was brought to the floor but was ignored for a long time despite a lot of protestations. Deputies in the House tried to make sure that democracy had its day and the more than 90 Deputies who were elected to vote for the abolition of water charges in the Dáil did not get the chance to do so until today. We now have our chance and we will see how things pan out in terms of the mishmash of coalitions, arrangements and loyalties that have been established in the House since the formation of a Government.

There is no doubt that those of us on the Opposition side of the House are absolutely committed to seeing through the principle of the abolition of water charges and Irish Water, as we fought for that and represented the voices of tens of thousands of people who marched and boycotted the charges. Many of them came up against pressure and bullying from the law on the streets and were coaxed and cajoled into paying bills. We are now at a point where that resistance has been met by the election of a majority of Deputies in the House who are opposed to water charges. That is why this motion is terribly important.

Those of us on this side of the House who advocated for the abolition of water charges and have helped to build a widespread movement from Donegal to Dingle to represent that sentiment among people are not opposed to the water infrastructure and environment in the country being significantly improved through dealing with the water and sewerage infrastructure. The problem is that successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Governments, in coalition with the Green Party and the Labour Party, have over the past 12 to 14 years totally ignored the investment that is required for water infrastructure. We want to see things turned on their heads and improved, not by penalising people who did not cause the problem, namely, the ordinary people of the country. We do not want them to be penalised unfairly.

It is always the poor who end up paying the most when stealth taxes and service charges are applied. Instead, the Government should implement a fair and progressive taxation system that ensures those at the very top of society pay more of the share of what is required to deal with society's problems. A tiny minority of people at the top have the most and they need to understand that it is time that they coughed up in terms of taxes on corporations, wealth and financial transactions to release the required resources to deal with water infrastructure.

In the long-term we hope that, starting with this Government, a progressive system of retrofitting for homes and buildings with the sort of facilities that will ensure the saving of clean treated water will be introduced. There is no point flushing the jacks with clean treated water. There is no need to wash one's body with clean, treated drinkable water. There are other ways and means. The modern world is well capable of separating water through the retrofitting of buildings, dual flush toilets and grey water collection. There are many ways to improve the environment.

It must be said that most water wastage happens through negligence of the infrastructure and the leakage of clean, treated water through the system. The biggest consumers of water are not individual consumers like the people in this House and those outside it watching the debate, but big industry and agribusiness. One should watch this space because we are going to come under pressure through various means from industry, privatisation and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, to bring fracking into this country, which is the biggest waste of water that has been seen on the planet. We must resist that and link it to resistance to water charges and the privatisation of water. I thank the Acting Chairman for bearing with me. I am sorry for being late.

There is only five minutes remaining in this slot and there are two speakers left. To be fair, Deputy Gino Kenny missed his five minutes at the beginning and Deputy Fitzmaurice was listed as the third speaker in this slot. If they wish to share two and half minutes, they may do so.

It will be difficult.

It is between the speakers to decide.

I will share time with Deputy Gino Kenny.

I will not be able to say it all in just two minutes. I need four or five minutes.

Someone needs to start because the clock is ticking. There are only five minutes remaining.

When Irish Water was set up there were major problems. There is no point in anyone saying there were not. Things were done wrongly and we must learn from that. Every week, I attended the clinics held by Irish Water and things began to improve bit by bit. Progress was slow and at times I pulled my hair out. I come from an area where there were many boil water notices, especially in Roscommon. After 14 months, thankfully the people in Williamstown can now drink the water. We must learn from the mistakes that were made. I will not get involved in the blame game but what was done was not thought out at the time. We should have opted to have a referendum to make sure the people always have a right to water because there are €16 billion worth of pipes in the ground that we must ensure are held in the public interest.

People might give out to me for saying it but I worked with Irish Water on a weekly basis on the problems in my area and, in fairness, I saw the situation improve on a step-by-step basis. I am chairman of a group water scheme at home and I am aware that we must ensure water quality is right because the EU has introduced regulations that have significantly increased the standard. The charges are gone but whether one pays with the right hand or the left hand, the cost of providing water will be paid with some hand. Whether it comes out of Exchequer funding or through billing people, the money will have to be paid. We must put infrastructure in place because there are problems with sewerage systems around the country. The sum of €50 per house was taken off the subvention for group water schemes and that money should be restored this year rather than kicking the ball down the road until next year because such schemes are running at a loss. Schemes are run on a voluntary basis around the country.

I remember going to the well for water with a milk can. We have come a long way since then, but it was the local people who put the infrastructure in place with the help of Government funding in order to provide a water supply in rural areas. We must learn from the mistakes that have been made. A commission is to be set up and we must be realistic and honest with people. The water charges are gone and that is fine, but five or six years down the road we must ensure funds are in place to deal with sewage treatment plants because the EU will come down heavy on us with fines. I am no admirer of the EU. I have no time for it, but this is what we signed up to in terms of water quality and septic tanks. The people who have said we could not do this, that or the other will have to answer for it in five or six years' time. Let us be honest with people and say that straight out.

We must ensure that we have good quality water throughout this country - north, south, east and west. We must put infrastructure in place. Water charges are gone but we must be honest with people and accept that the money for the infrastructure must come out of some purse. We must increase the current level of funding to ensure that we turn around the situation, be it in Dublin, Galway, Donegal or in the south in order that we have both the sewerage infrastructure and the water infrastructure that is required because I have seen what one has to do now to comply with the various EU regulations. We must invest heavily and whether people like it or not, that is the reality. I hope we do not regret what has happened. We accept what has happened. We are all politicians and we must move on. The water charges are gone, but I have seen in the past where two councils were not able to join pipes together but at least the entity of Irish Water ensures one body is overlooking the situation and ensuring the system is working.

Could I give the shortest speech probably ever heard in the Dáil?

The Deputy has just 30 seconds.

That is just too little.

I am happy to give five minutes to my colleague if he wants to eat into Labour time.

I thank Deputy Sherlock very much. Deputy Sherlock will need a doppelganger.

It is a charm offensive.

We are all God's children, as the saying goes.

The Deputy has five minutes.

It is with great pleasure that I support this motion to abolish water charges and Irish Water, and to call for a referendum to safeguard water resources by securing them in public ownership.

I am here today in no small part due to the historic water charges movement which demolished the Fine Gael Government's attempt to privatise the water service. From the beginning, Fine Gael shaped Irish Water as the precursor to a for-profit private enterprise. It did not want a utility that would provide clean and safe water efficiently. It did not want to fix the antiquated water infrastructure. It did not want to conserve water or limit the amount of treated water used. It just wanted to set up a billing operation so that when payments were successfully forced on the population, it would be ripe for selling off to the highest bidder.

We can see this in the order of the party's priorities. Did we see Fine Gael quickly move to fix and replace pipes or to upgrade water and sewage treatment plants? Did we see it roll out grants to retrofit water-saving devices and plumbing in peoples' homes? Instead, we saw the scandal of paying millions to consultants, the introduction of expensive billing procedures, but most of all, there was an attempt to try to force meters onto every home in Ireland to ensure the money started flowing, whatever about the water.

The masses of Irish people who made sacrifices to bail out the banking system had simply had enough. They were weary but determined that they would defeat the Government by protesting against the installation of water meters, by refusing to pay the charges as double taxation and by taking to the streets in their tens and hundreds of thousands in demonstrations up and down the country.

The collapse in income for Irish Water, a fall of 21% in the last quarter, shows that the retreat of the Government has turned into a rout, as those who were coerced into paying have joined the boycott and also refused to pay. While the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties have threatened to pursue people for unpaid water bills, the reality is that those are uncollectible debts for money squandered on overpaid consultants and useless meters. Instead, we should consider pursuing the former Ministers, Phil Hogan, and Deputy Alan Kelly, for recklessly wasting the money poured down the Irish Water drain over the past five years.

Water charge bills and penalties should now be cancelled and those who have paid should be reimbursed with an apology for any duress. One of the greatest social movements in history has shaped the political landscape forever. The voice of people power is clear, as is their victory. We should abolish Irish Water and abolish the water charges.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 2:

To insert the following after “its recommendations by the Oireachtas”:

“believes that those who have paid their water charges in accordance with law should not now be unfairly disadvantaged compared to those who have not;

considers that, if the ongoing liability to pay is suspended, there would be no practical reality to pursuing outstanding unpaid charges;

concludes that in such circumstances the only fair approach would be to make a full refund to all those who have paid their water charges; and

agrees in principle to a referendum on a Constitutional amendment that commits to maintaining our public water supply and treatment systems, and our electricity and gas transmission and distribution networks, in public ownership.”

I wish to reiterate some points we made in this House on 27 April when we had statements on Irish Water. Some of those points are pertinent to tonight's debate. Law-abiding people who did pay will have to get their money back. That will mean Irish Water will have to reprocess well in excess of 2 million financial transactions.

Regardless of whether the charge is to be suspended or abolished, the Labour Party believes the Government must tell people how and when it will give them their money back. It may not suit political discourse at present but it is a matter of fact that Irish Water's investment has delivered 34 new treatment plants, 26 of which are for wastewater and eight for drinking water, as well as 73 upgrades involving 51 wastewater and 22 drinking water facilities. A further 47 water conservation projects have been completed and 452 km of pipe has been remediated. If there is a proposal to revert to the local authorities whereby funds would be divested solely through the Exchequer through those local authorities, one need look no further than County Roscommon as an example of where the old model simply did not work. I believe Deputy Fitzmaurice already has made reference to this point. I need not remind Members of the improvements it has made the lives of more than 17,000 people in County Roscommon who were on boil water notices. The residents of Castlerea, for example, were subject to a boil water notice from November 2009 to June 2013. If the proposal is that it would revert to the local authorities, which is gaining credence in some circles, and that funding would come from the Exchequer and that people are already paying for water through their taxation, why then is it that these issues were not addressed at that time?

The Labour Party amendment and the addendum seek to speak for those who did pay their water charges. We believe that those who have paid their charges in accordance with the law should not now be unfairly disadvantaged compared with those who have not. We believe that if the ongoing liability to pay is suspended, there would be no practical reality to pursuing outstanding unpaid charges and that in such circumstances, the only fair approach would be to make a full refund to all those who have paid their water charges. Moreover, the Labour Party agrees in principle to a referendum on a constitutional amendment that commits to maintaining Ireland's public water supply and treatment systems, as well as its electricity and gas transmission and distribution networks in public ownership. The Labour Party has already tabled a Bill in this regard.

I now move back to Sinn Féin's time and I understand a number of Deputies intend to share this 30 minute slot. I will go through the names to ensure accuracy. They are Deputies Connolly, Pringle, Joan Collins, Donnelly, Pearse Doherty, Crowe, Buckley, Ó Caoláin, Ó Laoghaire, Ellis and Brady.

As Deputy Connolly spoke yesterday, it should be Deputy Seamus Healy.

I apologise, as the Deputy had said that. However, when Deputy Connolly returned to the Chamber I thought there was some change. Does Deputy Pringle wish to start?

As Deputy Healy is not yet in the Chamber, if he arrives perhaps he can contribute later. As a signatory of the motion being debated, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the discussion on the abolition of Irish Water. As has been stated previously, this motion is simple. It meets all the language that was included and that Fianna Fáil espoused in its election manifesto about the abolition of Irish Water and of water charges. It is straightforward and it should be a simple matter to have this motion passed this evening given that a majority of Deputies in the House support the wording of it.

However, we are in a time of new politics, about which much has been said, and in these new politics the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael Government has decided to suspend water charges into the future and therefore, they will combine together to vote down this motion and make sure it does not see the light of day. I wonder about this because if Fianna Fáil agreed that the suspension of water charges should go ahead, the rest of the motion does not interfere with Fianna Fail policy at all and an amendment could have been tabled that would set a date for a referendum to take place to enshrine public ownership of water services in the Constitution that I imagine would have been acceptable to Fianna Fáil as well. This is what Members should be doing.

On listening to this debate one might think nothing ever happened in water services before 2014, when Irish Water miraculously came into existence and rode in on its white horse to save water services nationwide. The reality is that most of the plans in place regarding the County Roscommon boil water notices had been in place under Roscommon County Council but the Government withheld the funding to allow them to proceed. That was the history of water services across the country as successive Governments held a noose around the necks of local authorities. They held the purse strings and drip-fed funding to allow water services and infrastructure to be improved. This is the reason water services did not work and it has nothing to do with Fine Gael's previous brainchild, the establishment of Irish Water to save water services. In addition, people always have paid for water and both the present Government and its predecessor would like them to pay twice. I wonder what is the idea and motivation behind the suspension of water charges because everybody knows what this expert committee will say. It will state that water charges should be maintained and practically any Member could write that report for it. What will happen is Members will not wait for two years for Fianna Fáil to get the cover to ensure charges will continue.

I am proud to have signed my name to this Private Members' motion. The coalition Government of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Independents must understand clearly that any attempt to rescue Irish Water or water charges or to keep open the door for future privatisation will be doomed to failure. This is the third attempt by the establishment to commodify the country's water and it has been defeated three times through mass opposition and people power. In 2015, hundreds and thousands of people came out, not to reduce water charges but to abolish them. In the election in 2016, the people spoke and elected a majority of Deputies in this Dáil not to send the matter to a commission, but to abolish the charges. It was a privilege today to introduce the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) (No. 2) Bill 2016. It was signed by 29 Deputies from the progressive independent left, that is, by Deputies from Independents4Change, Sinn Féin and Anti-Austerity Alliance-People before Profit, as well as by an Independent Alliance Deputy. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Constitution through a referendum and when that Bill comes onto the agenda, I urge all those Members who stated tonight they support a referendum to keep water as a public service to support that Bill in order that it will pass.

However, that will not be the end of the matter, because a solution and a proper plan of action are needed to deal with the mess the water services are in due to decades of neglect and underinvestment by successive Governments. The business plan put forward last year by Irish Water is a joke when almost 1 million people are under threat of water contamination, almost 50% of treated water is lost in the system and the water pipes and sewers on average are twice as old as in Europe in general. Irish Water planned to reduce leakage from a rate of 49% to a rate of 38% by 2021. The international norm is 10% and the rate in the United Kingdom is 23%. Reducing leakage to a rate of 38% is not a plan but is more of the same.

As my time is running out, I simply will state that a real plan for investment and a body for oversight of investment in the renewal and maintenance of the system are needed. Irish Water is not that body and a national water and sanitation board could do that. Irish Water must go together with the charges and this is what will happen. It would be better to clear the decks now in order to have a commission to ascertain how to implement the progressive system that must be put in place.

First, I am delighted to support this motion. It is a subject on which Members have been campaigning for a number of years and the Right2Water campaign and the Right2Change movement have created the biggest change ever in this Chamber as a result of the last general election.

The issue relating to water and water charges was a lightning rod for austerity of all kinds. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. Everybody felt that the campaign was not only about water but also about austerity in general. It was not about refusing to pay for water because we have always paid for water. It was always about the fact that these domestic charges are an unfair form of double taxation. They were effectively being heaped on ordinary families across the country, devastating many of them. I compliment all of the people associated with that campaign and those who attended the protests. I particularly compliment those who fought Irish Water in their estates, villages and towns. They forced the situation with which we are now faced. There is no doubt that we are on the brink of a major victory with the abolition of these water charges.

I appeal to Fianna Fáil Deputies who talk about new politics and about honouring commitments that were made in the general election. Their amendment is, however, a breach that reneges on the promises and commitments they made in the general election. A majority of Deputies in this Dáil were elected on the basis of the abolition of water charges. That mandate must transfer into an abolition of those charges.

I say "Well done" to all those who turned out during the campaign. These charges must go and Irish Water must also go. We simply cannot allow the privatisation of water. Public ownership of water must be enshrined in the Constitution.

The Social Democrats are proud signatories of this motion to abolish domestic water charges, end the commercial semi-State model and replace it with a public utility model and hold a referendum seeking to guarantee permanent public ownership of the water system.

The idea of moving from 34 separate bodies to a national water entity is a good one and progress is being made on the engineering front. However, the idea of creating this entity as a commercial semi-State is not a good one because there is always a future risk of privatisation. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, has stated many times that he has no intention of privatising Ireland's water supply. I take him at his word but we have no idea what any future Government might do in five, ten or 20 years. I am not a conspiracy theorist but a look at Jean-Claude Trichet's letter to the late Brian Lenihan in 2010 is very interesting. It is the letter in which Trichet suggests that Ireland needs a bailout and in it he proposes two structural reforms for Ireland. One of them is that we should start charging people for water. No central banker has any business telling any sovereign government the structural reforms in which it should engage. It certainly has no business telling any sovereign government that it needs to start charging for water. One must, therefore, ask why something as specific and localised as that would end up in a letter from Jean-Claude Trichet to the late Brian Lenihan, which referred to an existential crisis for Europe's banks.

The other bad idea is the domestic water charge. The rationale consistently given by this Government is that it is needed to pay for the upgrade. Of course, that is not true. I have provided an analysis, which I have shared with Irish Water and which has been verified by several economists. The analysis shows that the cost of collecting the domestic water charge more or less equals the amount of money that is collected. As a result, none of the money that people are paying out is being used to upgrade the system, nor is it being used to provide them with water. It is being used to cover the cost of taking the money off them. That is all it is doing. Therefore, the rationale that the domestic water charge is somehow necessary to fund an upgrade of the system simply does not stack up. The only way it would stack up is if we doubled the charge - then there would be additional money.

New figures from Irish Water this week show that the total difference in funding required by Irish Water up to 2019 or 2020 - compared to the base case of 2010 that we are all using - to do everything will be approximately €150 million. Is it more efficient, sensible and cognisant of the democratic mandate and the will of the people to raise that €150 million centrally through Exchequer funding - borrow it, if needs be, just as Irish Water is doing - or to proceed with an extraordinarily expensive domestic water charge? I calculate that the cost of collecting the money for the first ten years will be about €1 billion. The political mandate on this is clear. The Irish people want a permanent, public water entity protected by a referendum to change the Constitution. We should do that. The economic case is absolutely clear: the best way to provide the funding required - which, thanks to a lot of the cost reduction going on in Irish Water, is relatively small at approximately €150 million - is through central Exchequer funding.

I listened to Deputy Dooley's bizarre speech last night in which he said that Sinn Féin should thank Fianna Fáil for all they have done on the issue of water charges. I am not sure whether he was talking about his commitment in 2010 to introduce it, signing the troika agreement that introduced it or voting in favour of legislation under which Irish Water was introduced. As Deputy Seamus Healy stated in the context of commitments made by political parties in general elections, the reality is that Fianna Fáil should thank Sinn Féin and the other political parties and Independents who tabled the motion. We have allowed Fianna Fáil to vote for their policy. Our commitment is to abolish Irish Water and scrap water charges.

The Government's disastrous water policy has seen millions wasted on Irish Water rather than being invested in our water infrastructure. We should stop throwing good money after bad and return the day-to-day maintenance of water services to county councils. "We will ensure that the Irish Water super quango is abolished, proper co-ordinated investment in water, and the removal of water charges". The latter are not my words, they appeared on the Fianna Fáil leaflets delivered to every house in Donegal only three months ago.

What has changed for Deputies McConalogue and Gallagher? What has made them break their promise to the people of Donegal? Indeed, what has made Deputy Cowen break his promise to the people of his constituency?

The Right2Water and Right2Change movements brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets right across the State. Ordinary citizens said "Enough is enough". Tonight's motion is part of the Right2Water campaign. It has cross-party support and is signed by 39 Deputies. At the heart of the Right2Water movement is not only opposition to an unfair and unjust tax, but a belief that water is a human right that should be provided on the basis of need rather than on that of people's ability to pay.

As the motion says, a clear majority of Deputies sought and won an electoral mandate to abolish Irish Water and scrap water charges. Our motion relates to the certainty, fairness and abolishing both the unjust charge and Irish Water. It is about following through on election promises. It is not about sidelining the issue, stalling in respect of it or pushing it down the road, it is about ending the charges and the threatening letters. It is also about bringing an end to the employment of consultants, the bonus culture and the waste of scarce financial resources.

Despite the proposed suspension of water charges, the people of east Cork are still receiving their water bills in full, in the boil water notice areas of Whitegate, Cloyne, Ballinacurra and Ballycotton, to mention a few. In recent days, I have received a number of complaints from my constituents in these areas complaining that Irish Water is still issuing bills for water in and water out, despite the fact that residents in these areas were assured they would not be charged for water in. I would say that this is a failure.

In recent days, I have also received two separate answers from Irish Water in respect of a question that I and my Sinn Féin county councillor colleague submitted on behalf of the people of east Cork. It should be remembered that this boil water notice has been in place since January 2016.

Irish Water's response was: "Regarding water charges, where water is unfit for human consumption, i.e. where a boil water notice has been issued, or where a customer is subject to a drinking water restriction notice linked to the public water supply network, affected customers will receive a 100% discount to the water supply portion of their bill for the duration of the restriction which will be reflected in their next bill." Why are these customers still being billed for water in and water out? Is this another fail?

Another response from the company stated:

On each occasion advice regarding the Boil Water Notice was issued to local and national media. It was also published on the Irish Water and Cork County Council websites and all of those who are registered with Irish Water as 'priority' or 'vulnerable' customers living in the area were contacted by our team. Notification was issued to all elected representatives in the area.

Is it now the public representative's job to work as safety agents for Irish Water? This is another fail.

Since its initial proposal, the prospect of water charges has infuriated ordinary people the length and breadth of this country. People came together and revolted against this unjust tax and took to the streets in their tens of thousands. The effectiveness and the potential of people power in any social movement for change has never been so glaringly demonstrated. Hundreds of thousands of people took their anger to the ballot boxes, and in February this year, the majority of people voted to scrap water charges and to place Irish Water in the dustbin of history. Figures recently released show that 36% of people have not paid their water charges over the past 12 months and Irish Water failed to collect almost 50% of its projected income from the charge. According to information received via a freedom of information request, domestic revenue due for 2015 was €271 million. However, the yield was only €144.2 million, just over half. It is beyond farcical at this stage and such figures are indicative of the mass of people opposed to this unfair tax and who will not pay in any circumstances.

Most of the Members elected in February made pre-election pledges to abolish water charges and to do away with the entity known as Irish Water, even Fianna Fáil. However, in the new deal stuck between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the party has only managed to secure a suspension. People do not want a suspension. They want these charges scrapped altogether. Irish Water and water charges are an affront to people across this land. It is time for Government, therefore, to respect the democratic will of the people and to end this shambolic situation once and for all. It should abolish domestic water charges immediately, establish a public water and sanitation board to deliver water on the basis of need, and set a date for a referendum to enshrine the public ownership of water services in Bunreacht na hÉireann. I call on all Deputies to vote in favour of the motion.

I listened to some of the Fianna Fáil contributions to the debate last night. They seemed rather sore and their contributions were worthy of pantomime season in the Everyman Theatre or the Gaiety Theatre. We heard of "magic money", "grandstanding" and "empty rhetoric". It was all very entertaining stuff but it was part of a vain attempt to distract from the fact that Fianna Fáil will vote with the Government against a simple and clear motion calling for the end of water charges and the end of Irish Water, which will not fool anyone. We heard talk of U-turns. This is after Fianna Fáil, having carried out an Olympic U-turn ahead of the election, moved from being the authors of water charges, to being opposed to them, to turning on its heels yet again and falling behind the Government. This is a sign of things to come.

Fianna Fáil signed up to a confidence and supply agreement. We have been critical of that deal and how it is an attempt to hoodwink the electorate. However, this is not a confidence motion. Fianna Fáil Members are at liberty to vote how they wish on the motion. If they are truly opposed to water charges and if they want rid of them for good, they should vote for it. We heard that the motion has no legal effect. Can I take it then that Fianna Fáil will not in future use Private Members' business to debate a motion and to give voice to the will of the Dáil on important issues? Ar ndóigh, feicim seacht rún faoi láthair sínithe ag Teachtaí Fhianna Fáil ar riar pháipéir an lá inné ar cheisteanna ar nós tithíocht agus an Garda Síochána. Is rúin suntasacha agus fiúntacha atá iontu agus bheinn sásta tacú leo dá mbeadh díospóireacht ann. Why should the Dáil not express its wish to get rid of water charges and Irish Water? The people have had their say. We committed to ensuring, at the first opportunity on Private Members' business, that we would ask the Dáil to have a vote on this matter. Deputies have the chance for the first time in this Dáil to vote on water charges and to keep their commitments to their constituents.

The Government and its predecessor never learned their lesson. Irish Water and water charges are to all intents and purposes dead in the water. If the Government thinks that by setting up an advisory body and suspending charges it will stop the popular uprising that has seen tens of thousands of people on the streets, it is sadly mistaken. The penny just has not dropped that the Government is on life support due to the opposition to water charges and Irish Water as well as other policies that have inflicted huge hardship on our people. To date, almost €1 billion has been spent on meters and transferring assets to Irish Water with little spent on infrastructure and repairing leaks. A total of €78 million was spent on consultants, legal fees and financial arrangements. Had local authorities received this money instead of being starved of local government funding, many of the serious problems with leaks and contamination would have been sorted out long ago.

Let us get one thing straight once and for all: we have always paid for water. That is what a progressive taxation system is for. It is clear to many people that the plan was ultimately to privatise the service. Anyone familiar with Detroit will know that people are being evicted from their homes over water. Water is a vital service which must and should be kept in public ownership. It is vital to the well-being of all our people. The Right2Water campaign will not go away and will continue to campaign, grow and make life a misery for the Government.

Last night during the debate, the Minister said he wanted to take the heat out of the issue of water charges. However, he clearly has not. Yesterday, two Wicklow men, Sean Doyle and Eamon McGrath, were released from Cloverhill Prison on a technicality, having spent 16 days behind bars for protesting against the installation of water meters. These protests are continuing across the State. Clearly, the heat has not been taken out of the issue.

Water charges have been suspended but they should be put to bed once and for all this evening. I call on Fianna Fáil Members to stand by the mandate they received in the election and ensure that happens. However, we are all aware of the grubby little deal done by Fianna Fáil to put the Minister's lot back into power. The Minister has set up his commission to take the heat out of the issue in order that Fianna Fáil can put Fine Gael back into power. However, I call on him to put an immediate end to water metering. It is possible that there will be no future use for any of the meters that have been installed, never mind the meters that Irish Water continues to install. A total of €500 million has been wasted to date installing water meters and tens of millions of euro more is planned.

Does the Minister expect the protests to end while the roll-out of the water metering programme continues? Will he continue wasting Garda resources by ensuring they act as a private security force to allow Irish Water to install meters? Will he second-guess the findings of his commission or is the outcome written? I am standing by the mandate I received in the election by being a proud signatory to the motion.

I ask the Minister to halt the water metering programme immediately. The commission will come back with its own findings in nine months time. I am asking him to halt the metering programme to really take the heat out of this issue.

I will start with a saying with which many of us are familiar, never put off until tomorrow that which you can do today. Why suspend water charges for nine months when we can scrap them right here and now? We have the opportunity before us tonight to scrap water charges, which is what we promised the people we would do. Surely a promise made or a commitment given has to mean something. It does mean something to me. Tonight, I will vote to scrap water charges and abolish Irish Water as I promised the people I would.

Page 38 of the Fianna Fáil manifesto also contained a promise and commitment to, wait for it, abolish Irish Water and scrap water charges. In fairness, Fianna Fáil has a proven track record when it comes to broken promises. However, I will give it the opportunity tonight to redeem itself. I am calling on Fianna Fáil to honour the commitment it made to the people on page 38 of its election manifesto a mere three months ago. I am calling on Fianna Fáil to abolish Irish Water and scrap water charges by voting in support of this motion. It will also give Fianna Fáil an opportunity to break its cycle of broken promises. Tonight, Fianna Fáil should vote in favour of this motion and honour the commitment it gave to the people. As I said at the beginning, never put off until tomorrow that which you can do today.

I will make three points in the time available. Amidst the focus and expectation the country has about the need for new politics and a new way of doing business, there must be evidence of a new attitude and new habits to make it work. If we end up in a Dáil where we have new politics and old habits and old ways of dealing with matters, we will end up with worse results for the people we represent. This general point is relevant to the debate we are having. What is the agreement in place between two parties in the Dáil? The agreement stipulates that in a number of months' time, a process will be put in place that will and should allow a very clear vote on the future of water charging in our country. The debate and vote will take place after a process in which this matter can be better understood and evaluated legally and economically. The vote will happen at such a point. This provides an opportunity for this debate to happen at a point where we will have very definitive conclusions for the future of charging and Irish Water.

The second point to emphasise is the rationale for the setting up of Irish Water. There are two different debates here, although obviously they are politically related. One is the case for charging. A process is in place in respect of this. The second relates to the role of a utility. I know this matter has been debated here and across the country for a long time. If we look at the basic point regarding the setting up of Irish Water as a single body to manage a single piece of infrastructure as a single utility and all the other examples we have of utility models where they are appropriate for the management of infrastructure, are we suggesting that our gas infrastructure be managed in different counties by different local authorities? Would we suggest that our national road or rail networks be managed in that way? The answer to those questions is clearly "No". Alongside the debate that is clearly happening here in respect of charging, there must be a continued appreciation of how a single body with responsibility for infrastructure is the appropriate method of managing infrastructure like this in Ireland.

The third point I make relates to the impact and consequence of the abolition of charging in the future. This is a debate to which we will return in coming months and it is a point I will make then. The opportunity cost of charging not being available to fund water services in our country is not just about water. The money that is needed to deliver that water infrastructure will then be found, as Opposition Deputies are saying, from the Exchequer. This means that the Exchequer will not be able to do other things that it would wish to do. These are very significant and substantial measures. Many of them are things for which Deputy Ellis calls and campaigns for week after week. I will give him an example. The opportunity cost of the suspension of Irish Water charges needs to come out of the Exchequer. The tens of millions of euro involved in that would build more primary care centres, improve the services available in hospitals and deliver the kind of services infrastructure that Deputy Ellis stands up in the Dáil to look for week after week. The reality of this is very clear. If the Dáil takes the decision to go ahead with the abolition of charging, there are other things that the Exchequer will not be able to do as a result of that vote. These are the very things that Deputy Ellis stands up week after week in the Dáil to look for.

I will end where I began. The Sinn Féin Deputies' comments tell it all. This has nothing to do with water and how we provide water services. This is an example of old politics reasserting itself under the name of new politics.

(Interruptions).

There is a clear arrangement in place. The attitude of Deputy Ellis says it all. They come in here looking for debate but all they want to do is shout people down. They come in here looking for a discussion regarding what the future will be but if somebody offers a view that differs from their view, they are not willing to engage with it.

(Interruptions).

There we go again. I will conclude where I began. It is the worst of old politics masquerading in here as something new.

I rise to support the Government amendment and to oppose the Sinn Féin motion. Picking up on a theme touched on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, it strikes me that, unfortunately, there are two things we discuss when we talk about water in Ireland. One is water policy, which we should talk about, and the other is the old politics, which is very much represented by the kind of water politics we have seen represented in the past couple of years.

If we were to have a rational and evidence-based debate on water policy in Ireland, we would probably all agree on five things. We would agree that it should be managed by a national utility just like electricity and gas. Nobody would suggest that those utilities be broken up among 42 local authorities. Water, sewerage and wastewater do not know county boundaries on their way to or from a river and we would all agree that there should be a national utility. We would probably all agree that it should be in public ownership just like all other major strategic assets, which have remained in public ownership despite the fact that Governments have changed. We would probably all agree that metering is a good idea. Of course, it is a good idea. How else do you know where the leaks occur? District metering tells you in which districts the leaks occur and metering properties tells you exactly where the leaks are occurring on private property. That is the best way we can identify where leaks are occurring.

One has to identify where they are occurring before they can be fixed. We would probably all agree that charging by volume above a free allowance is the best and fairest way to charge for water. It is the best way to promote conservation. Education can help but the most effective means-----

Did the free allowance happen with the bin charges?

-----is charging based on the amount of water people use because if people have to pay for the water they waste or if they use excess water, they are much more likely to conserve it than for any other reason. It is the fairest way to charge. People should pay for the water they use, just as they pay for the electricity, gas and fuel they use and the food they eat. We would never suggest that people should pay for other utilities, gas, electricity, or other essentials like food, based on their income. Nobody would suggest that - it is absurd. Of course the fairest way of paying for water is based on how much one uses. If one does not believe that, surely one should be arguing that food, shelter, gas, electricity, coal and fuel should all be paid for out of general taxation, but Sinn Féin does not argue that because it knows it does not make any sense. We all believe that we need more investment in our water network and the best way to make sure we have investment in it is to ensure that we have a system of ring fencing money for investment in our water network and water charges provide that. Without that, hospitals and schools and other public goods have to compete with water for limited capital funding. The result of that is there is not enough to go around.

I firmly believe in the concept of paying for water. I also believe that Irish Water should be retained, as our country drastically needs a single entity that will remain in full public ownership, in order to invest and upgrade our broken water system after many years of neglect. Over the past two years, Sinn Féin and others have continually called for the abolition of water charges and for the abolition of Irish Water. Yet, to date I have not heard of any concrete proposals from them as to how they want to achieve the much needed improvements to our water infrastructure. They have repeatedly called for its abolition despite the notable improvements already being made by Irish Water. For example, to date, Irish Water has removed over 17,000 people from long-term boil notices nationwide, which the localised system which preceded it, failed to address. It has increased investment in our water infrastructure by 83% since 2013 when local authorities were spending only €300 million on water. In 2016, Irish Water will spend over €550 million on upgrading our water and wastewater networks. It has repaired over 500 km of the worst water mains in the country. Through the introduction of water meters, it has saved 34 million litres of water every day since works commenced while also identifying a further 80 million litres which can be conserved. It has identified and developed the national lead strategy which aims to assist and protect 38,000 homes with lead pipes. These are just a few key examples of the positive work that Irish Water is currently undertaking, of which there are many. Will Sinn Féin and others explain to the House how the country will set about fixing our dangerously outdated water infrastructure without such a public entity? It is estimated that between 2016 and 2021, some €1.6 billion will be needed to develop infrastructure in absence of water charges. Where will the money come from if there are no nominal charges?

We spent €1 billion already.

I did not interrupt the Deputy. He should have some manners.

There should only be one voice.

What exactly will Sinn Féin do if the independent commission, which will be established shortly, finds that the current model is in fact the best model for the administration of our water infrastructure? Will it still oppose the utility for the sake of it and continue to pander to populism? It is important to remember that many prominent figures in Sinn Féin indicated publicly that they would pay their water charges in 2014.

What will Sinn Féin do when the commission reports? It will do exactly what it intends doing which is to vote against it no matter what the commission report says. Sinn Féin had a different position prior to the October 2014 by-election when the current coalition between Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party was not quite in place, when Deputy Murphy became a Member of this House. The Deputy said that one could not trust Sinn Féin on water and one could not. Sinn Féin was moving to the centre and trying to gather more votes for the coming general election. It lost the by-election, changed tack and went to the left. Now, we have high style, old style Opposition, which I find unfortunate. I have listened to Deputy Ó Broin, who I think is an intelligent young Member of this House, but he is prepared to go down the route of the same old stuff - throw mud and hope it sticks. The old expression is the more it changes, the more it stays the same. I find that unfortunate. If water will be free, it should be free for everybody. It should be free for the group schemes that are paying for water and will be paying for water after this. The State should pony up for everybody in the countryside who provides their own well, sewage and septic tanks.

Water was never free.

If Deputies want fairness, there should be fairness for everybody. That will cost money, as the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, has said. There is no point in coming back here and complaining that there is not enough money for mental health services. We cannot have it every way in this House.

The Government has taken €12 million from it. There was not €12 million.

So this is the new politics.

There should only be one voice.

I did not interrupt anybody, nor will I. I will give the Deputy the opportunity to speak without me shouting him down. The commission will not make any difference because these people have their minds made up. They believe they have popular support.

They are called the electorate.

Every single person who voted for Sinn Féin or the left did not vote for them because of water charges. They voted for a number of policy reasons. Everybody who voted for us on this side of the House did not vote for us because we were implementing water charges. Unfortunately, I see no change in this House.

We see changes.

It disappoints me because we are going down the route of grinding politics to a halt. When everything collapses, perhaps the Acting Chairman will be happy with it. I could kick Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin but I do not see the purpose. We should at least have an honest debate about this and not keep going in the same direction. That is why people are so sick and tired of politics the way we all do it. I accept that we are as bad as those in Opposition but they should accept the same criticism.

This motion has given us the opportunity, yesterday and tonight, to hear everyone's views on this issue in a much calmer environment than we had eight to 12 weeks ago and to talk it through. There is much common ground here. If we get tonight's vote out of the way and people do what they have to do, we have nine months ahead in which we can discuss this and see if we can focus in on the common ground, where there is consensus.

Most speakers I have listened to on all sides of the House agree with the concept of having greater and more investment in water infrastructure. It is very clear that we all agree on that point. Everyone agrees it should be in public ownership. There is total agreement in that regard although there are different discussions on whether we should charge for it and who pays for it. Some are totally against the concept of charges because of genuine beliefs. I totally accept and understand that. Others are against them for other reasons. It is hard to accept that, but that is fair enough. Many people here are against privatisation. I listened to Deputy Gino Kenny. That was not and is not our agenda but I accept that the Deputy believes that it is. There is a bit of work here for us to explain that it is not the agenda and to work on that. That is fair enough and we accept it.

In six or nine months' time, if Deputies want to vote to get rid of Irish Water or water charges, that can happen. The Deputies can have that vote. The process was set out by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, last night. We will have a commission that will assess information. We will share with a committee that reflects the make-up of the Dáil and is not controlled by anybody. All of us have an equal say in it and then we will have a vote in six or nine months' time. Perhaps we could use that time when there will be no charges, because they will be paused in a couple of weeks' time, to analyse the data, go through all this, listen to the experts, both from Ireland and all over the world, listen to our own committee members, listen to new Deputies from all backgrounds and parties, and Independents, and then have a vote on it in six or nine months' time and make a decision then.

In the meantime, we should respect each other's position on this and understand we have different views. The shouting and roaring has got us nowhere in the past four or five years. I accept that people oppose this purely on the way the previous Government brought it in. We accept mistakes were made but we should park all that and have the conversation. Is it right or wrong? Has Irish Water provided any useful service? I believe it has and that massive improvements have been made. The facts indicate we are saving nearly €40 million a day because of less leakage. That is a benefit which we should regard as a good achievement by Irish Water. If Members want to say Irish Water has done some bad things, fair enough. We should analyse them but there is a process in place now to bring a shape to this, achieve consensus, get agreement on some parts of it and see where we go in the coming months.

I firmly believe in the concept of a single utility to drive this agenda. Others might not but if we listen to everybody's views, we might find that we all believe in that. I was on a council and the debate was not very functional in terms of who would have water when it came to a county boundary and so on, never mind wastewater and charging. We are talking about counties charging each other to deal with wastewater in a small country like Ireland.

There is a good deal of common ground here, so we should put aside political differences and see if we can get a solution to this because there is an opportunity in terms of whether to charge for water or not but there is also the question of gaining investment. This was not just about making money or privatisation. It was about conserving water and making sure that people think before deciding what to do with their water. I accept most people probably use water in the correct fashion. They do the right thing because it is very expensive. Others choose to wash their car or do other things with it. That is not the best choice to make in terms of using water that is treated by the State using taxpayers' money and other charges. A charging regime might force people to think twice about that. Other countries have no access to water. I want to be clear. We do not charge people for rain water. People are charged only for water that is treated, on which we spend a fortune. In many cases, that water is equivalent to Ballygowan in that the same cost is involved. That is what we charge for.

The final point I would make, and Deputy Fitzmaurice made it earlier, is that one way or another everybody is paying for water, either through direct taxes, indirect taxes or charges. The metering has other benefits separate from charges, so I would defend metering till the cows come home. One way or another, we are paying and we should not fool people by telling them they are not paying for water because they are and we should analyse that as well.

Members talk about 90% of people voting against Irish Water. They did not. That is an over-simplistic view of the election. People voted for many reasons. People in rural Ireland have been paying for water all their lives. People in rural Ireland did not just vote for this Government, Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil or Independents. They voted for a mix of us all and yet they are paying for water in most cases. Members should not tell me that people just voted in the election to get rid of Irish Water. That is not a true reflection of the election.

I respect every Member's mandate and the percentage of the vote they got. Anybody who got involved in the formation of this Government had a role in terms of policy influence and so on-----

Your time is up.

-----but we had to respect the percentages. We got approximately 25% of the vote - 50 Deputies. Did all of those people vote to keep Irish Water? If the Members opposite believe they voted for them to get rid of it, that is the opposite to what we believe.

Our vote is respected as well. Let us tease out this issue and this House can decide in nine months' time in a normal manner.

Will you stop water metering now? Yes or no.

Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett, Clare Daly, Mary Lou McDonald and Eoin Ó Broin share 15 minutes. Have they decided how they want to share it?

Two and a half, two and a half, five and five minutes.

What we need first is respect for democracy and honesty.

It is a two-way thing.

Yes. Respect for democracy is a very simple matter when it comes to this issue. A majority of Deputies elected to this House gave pledges to get rid of water charges. That is democracy. The Members opposite should accept it. We know their position. They have lost the popular debate. They should accept it. They often say that there are more important issues like health and housing. We agree, so get this issue off the pitch. The people have decided. They debated it for two years. They disagree with their position and they should simply respect democracy.

On the question of honesty, we want the rehabilitation of the water infrastructure and water conservation more than the Members opposite but they are not being honest about their plans. Do they know how Irish Water's investment programme compares even to what was being invested in 2009, and it was not enough then? Even at the highest spend, in Irish Water's plans, it will be less by €100 million or more than we were spending in 2009. The claim, therefore, that Irish Water had a plan to ramp up the investment in water infrastructure is factually incorrect.

We then consider all the waste, including 29 staff on €100,000 or more a year, 21 on salaries of €90,000 to €100,000, all the bonuses, the money that went out to private contractors like Denis O'Brien's company, all the consultants and so on. Money that should have been going to fix the water infrastructure was instead being used to line people's pockets. We want that money going to the front line. As the Minister rightly said, the people always pay. It was the Members opposite who were saying that someone had to pay for water when they knew we always paid for water and we always will. The issue is whether we pay for it fairly or disproportionately impose the burden on the least well off. That is the effect of water charges.

They were also being dishonest on the issue of privatisation. The EUROSTAT ruling confirmed what we said. In order for the Irish Water model to work, it had to ramp up the charges and reduce State support for Irish Water, leading to privatisation. That is what it said. The Minister should be honest about it.

If the platitudes of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, are new politics, I am very happy to be a dinosaur because there is nothing new in anything he said. In reality, it represents him and the Government again being completely out of touch. He tells us these are complex issues the people would not understand and that we should give them to the commission, which will advise and come back to it. It actually is not complex at all. The people have spoken on this issue. These charges never had a mandate. The previous Government committed electoral fraud by bringing them in. The Minister can test that. They said in the 2011 election that they would not bring them in until there was metering. The Labour Party said it would not bring them in at all. It is a simple fact that the people on this side of the House said, "Vote for us and we will get rid of Irish Water and the other items in this motion", so what are we waiting for?

The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, tells us that if we do not get this money we will not have funding to pay for other areas. How dare he say that when the previous Government stood over the write-off of €400 million to the top 17% of income earners in the budget in 2014 and when the Minister, Deputy Noonan, goes begging for Apple not to have to pay its taxes in this country?

If the Government wants to save money, it should tell Irish Water to stop sending out their stupid letters like the one I got about the extra charges because it will take more than the threat of extra charges or a Minister of State to get people on this side of the House to pay their charges. We are not unique. The overwhelming majority of citizens, if they were conned into paying, have stopped paying now. If the Minister wants to save money, stop the metering.

The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, is correct. District water metering is a conservation measure. Household water metering is a pre-privatisation strategic move.

That is the only way in which it makes economic sense. I salute the efforts of people like Sean Doyle, Eamonn McGrath and other activists who have been peacefully protesting to stop the installation of water meters because there is a double speak here. The Minister is talking about things being suspended and commissions but on the ground, the infrastructure is going in. If the Minister is genuine, he should call an end to metering and let us support the motion tonight.

For the delicate and gentle souls on the Fine Gael benches, I want to place on the record that I have impeccable manners, since good manners are now a concern for this brigade.

What have we learned in the course of this debate? The stand out lesson is that Fianna Fáil is on the wrong side of the Chamber. It seems that despite all the talk about new politics, there is a constant in Irish political life and that is that the word of Fianna Fáil means nothing. It carries the dubious distinction of committing a U-turn in that having dreamed up water charges it then resiled from them.

They subsequently gave a commitment, black on white, on the abolition of Irish Water and the scrapping of water charges, with a U-turn on that as well. I suppose that might be called a W-turn, something that has been created by the shiny new politics of the Fianna Fáil Party.

If they have any interest in new politics, I suggest to Fianna Fáil Party colleagues that they should at least be up-front. They clearly support the efforts of Fine Gael and their allies to impose an unfair charge that takes no account of ability to pay of low and middle income families across this jurisdiction. Despite their protestations to the contrary, they are intent on establishing an infrastructure in Irish Water that will be ripe for privatisation to line the pockets of various individuals and vested interests. In fairness, these are the very interests they represent in this Chamber.

New politics should mean the voices of the people are heard, and I do not mean that as a cliché. New politics should mean that when people tell the Government it has done something wrong, that they want a different approach and they cannot bear another charge on their already strained household budget, the Government would surely to goodness listen, respect them and not regard itself as so superior and clever that it can simply set such concerns aside. The main reason people in the communities I represent deeply resent this charge is because they want to know now and in the future that they will have a guaranteed supply of domestic water free of charge. They are people who struggle and are on small incomes. Those opposite should try to wrap their heads around that as they pontificate on new politics.

The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Varadkar, decided to argue on an uncontested point. He gave us a homily on the need for a single public body. That is correct and it is a point of agreement. As I understand it, the only people dissenting, perhaps, from that view are the Fianna Fáil Members. The Government does not have to worry about them as they will do whatever the Government needs them to do. The public body is not Irish Water but rather the mother and father of all quangos. It is a money pit, a waste of money and effort. If the Government imagines for a second that it will rehabilitate Irish Water and make all the bad memories go away, commission or no commission, it will find itself sadly mistaken.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, has a brass-iron neck to stand in this Chamber and issue a kind of threat to the population that it is water charges or else. He has suggested that the Government will charge for the water in the tap because if it does not do so then hospital services and the housing supply issue will be affected. How dare he stand here and speak about opportunity costs? Would Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil like to set out the opportunity cost in the abolition of the universal social charge? Do they wish to set out the opportunity cost in constantly cosseting and rewarding the haves and constantly punishing the have-nots? Does that factor in the thinking of the new political dispensation? This might be old politics but this is truthful and honest politics. This is the politics of standing up for people. It is the politics of keeping one's word. Perhaps it is those old values that might inform a new politics if it were to be truly marked by integrity.

The values of Sinn Féin. We should all learn from them.

I have listened very carefully, particularly to the Government spokespersons yesterday and today. We have learned a number of things, although interestingly, yesterday we learned that Deputy Timmy Dooley does not know much about the geography of Dublin. That is a separate point. I welcome the Deputy to Dublin.

It is good to be here.

The Minister, Deputy Coveney, spoke about the need for time for a rational debate. We have been talking about this since 2009, when Fianna Fáil and the Green Party first tried to introduce it, and we have spoken about it consistently since. In our view, the time for that debate is over and it is time to decide. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy O'Donohoe, spoke about the opportunity cost. He seems to forget that the European Commission and EUROSTAT have ruled that Irish Water is on-balance sheet.

Does Sinn Féin not want a commission?

Therefore its expenditure is coming from revenue, so the opportunity cost is no longer valid. It will not be valid for the duration of this Government, however long it lasts.

The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Varadkar, spoke about the absurdity of providing water on the basis of need. I made a point yesterday - although he was not in the Chamber for it - that if he wants to see why water should be provided on the basis of need and not on ability to pay, he should consider our health system. We have a health system where access is determined by ability to pay so people are denied access to life-saving vital medical treatment. It is on exactly the same basis that we argue for universal health care, free at the point of delivery, and universal access to water, free at the point of access, rather than on the basis of ability to pay.

The key element missing from this debate, particularly on the Government side, is what happens when the provision of water is commodified. I made the point yesterday and I will do so again that the consequence will be water poverty. Increasingly, in countries with regimes of paying for water, water poverty is increasing. This is not just an issue for the developing world. In countries like Poland, for example, which is not so far from here, water poverty is a real issue for as much as 10% of the population.

The purpose of the motion is very clear. It is not proposing a repeal Bill and it cannot result in the automatic abolition of water charges; we know this because we are precluded by Standing Orders from doing that. We are doing what every other political party has done with Private Members' time, which is to put a matter of public concern on the table. We urge Deputies to vote on the basis of the promises made during election campaigns and we are seeking to give expression to the democratic will of the people. By doing so, we will put pressure on those who could to introduce legislation to abolish the charge, to abolish the failed entity that exists and to put in place the start of a process that will create a proper public water and sanitation utility while protecting its public ownership in the Constitution.

We have heard much today about how the old system resulted in the decrepit water system that exists. Our water infrastructure is in such bad shape because parties in this Chamber - and Deputies - have for decades refused to invest in water-----

That is not true.

-----like they continue to refuse to invest in health, education, housing and child care. What does the Right2Water movement want? We want a world-class water service, funded through general taxation and provided on the basis of need rather than ability to pay. If one supports those principles, he or she should vote for the motion from the Right2Water Deputies tonight. If one does not support it, believing that water should be treated as a commodity and people should pay for water today, tomorrow or in the future, and if he or she is willing to take the risk of increased water poverty, that Deputy should side with the Government or Fianna Fáil. I am not supporting the Government motion because I stand by the principles of Right2Water. Abolish the charge, abolish the existing entity, hold a referendum to enshrine the public ownership of water in the Constitution and do what people voted for in the election, which is to abolish an unjust charge.

I thank the Deputy for respecting the time limits.

Amendment to amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 47; Níl, 59.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Willie Penrose and Brendan Ryan; Níl, Deputies Jim Daly and Regina Doherty.
Amendment to amendment declared lost.
Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 60; Níl, 39.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jim Daly and Regina Doherty; Níl, Deputies Eoin Ó Broin and Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 59; Níl, 38.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jim Daly and Regina Doherty; Níl, Deputies Eoin Ó Broin and Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
Question declared carried.