Yes. He is now Commissioner Hogan, with his pension in Europe for the devastation that he wreaked on the Irish people not only through this, but also through the abolition of local democracy. He thought that he could walk on water. That is why he called it "Irish Water", I suppose. He thought that it was his water and he could walk on it, but he found out quickly that he could not. A mess has been left behind.
I am not opposed to meters. Every house should have one. Indeed, a meter should be somewhere accessible inside a house so that it can be read and monitored. The majority of people accept that water is a valuable resource and needs to be used sparingly. This is especially so for treated water. We should be using untreated water for many other functions in schools and houses and there should be grant schemes for that. Meters should be accessible so that people can see what they are using.
I do not agree with the notion that only 7% is being lost beneath houses. Lots more is being lost. There are leaks, including under old houses, through old lead pipes, etc. There are many reasons for leaks. Nearly 50% of water in Dublin is leaking out, but the Government wants to bring water from Tipperary up to Dublin so that it can leak out here. It does not make sense.
The cost of the water metering contract was outrageous. I had issue with three or four villages in Tipperary. Deputy Healy, who is present and will speak later, and I fought for years to get money for rehabilitation schemes in those villages. I could name them. We had just installed new meters underneath the footpaths and outside all of the households when, six to eight months later, the contractor came along - it had the contract, so I do not blame it - and dug them all up, threw them into a lorry and carried them to a scrapyard in Clonmel. They were near meters and had only been installed a year beforehand. The wanton waste that went on was a shambles.
People in every town in Tipperary are suffering with sewerage systems. The council always maintained the systems. I salute the council workers involved in every area. If an old woman of 90, 95, 80 or whatever years has sewage rising in her backyard or back porch now, Irish Water will not touch it. Somewhere in the transfer of services, reservoirs, treatment plants, sewage plants and other infrastructure from county councils to Irish Water, some clever boyo - this did not happen by accident - failed to hand over the quasi-communal pipes. That is what they are. They are behind people's council-built houses, with sewerage pipes running up the back. These got blocked regularly, especially as they grew older. Some have had extensions built over them after planning permission was sought from and given by the relevant council. Irish Water has disowned these pipes, which has left people in perilous situations in all kinds of weather, especially heat, with sewage in their backyards that no one will go near. Council workers want to do the job as they always did, but they are not allowed to do so on behalf of Irish Water. That did not happen by accident. The same happened in England, but its legislation was amended to make people take the pipes over again. They are a part of the infrastructure that was developed in conjunction with water schemes. They were cleverly left behind, allowing people to sink in their own you-know-what. It is disgraceful. All Deputies have received representations, especially from older towns. If they have not, something is wrong and they know that this issue exists. It should have been sorted out instead of fighting over other issues.
I have a great deal of sympathy for the pioneers who developed their own water schemes and the private householders who sank their own wells and must maintain them with their electricity supplies and treatment commodities. If their pumps go, they must replace them. The grant funding to Tipperary for supporting semi-private group water schemes has been diminished by over 60% in recent years in conjunction with the waste in Irish Water. The Acting Chairman knows this to be the case, as does everyone else present, given that we have all met people. Those schemes are being left out to dry.
I backed a recent amendment on private householders' swimming pools because something like that should be paid for, but the water charge on every hairdresser, undertaker, shop, hotel, farmer, stonemason and other type of business has been doubled. There are double charges if people have taps on different pieces of land, yet we now have this nonsensical fallacy of debating paying back money. It is unfair on rural dwellers who must supply their own water or maintain their group schemes.
Irish Water tried to take over some of those schemes, but the people resisted, and rightly so. Significant effort was made during the storm. Everyone, including council workers, were out fixing water supplies and doing their best, but the information flow from Irish Water was archaic and disgusting. I am not blaming the people on the desks. The storm was on a Monday, but Irish Water turned off the helpline for Oireachtas Members on Friday evening. People everywhere were without water. We were getting misinformation, disinformation and careless information about the situation. There is a disconnect from the ordinary people on the ground and they have been left behind on a number of issues.
There is no conservation now, or at least little incentive to do so even though there should be. A magical component was fitted to the meters to allow for drive-by readings. The batteries in those are the same as the ones in our watches and will die after three, four, five, six, seven or eight years, rendering them useless. Three years have passed already, so they will all be useless in a short number of years. That is a con job. What happens when the meters cannot be read with drive-by electronic equipment?
For years, caretakers in the water schemes and county councils watched over our water services, monitored leaks and dealt with and listened to the public. If members of the public approach them about leaks now, they cannot do a thing. The leaks must first be logged with Irish Water regardless of what happens. If the sky falls in, there must be a log and a number. We cannot get any meaningful communication.
There is much wrong in the setup of Irish Water, and if a house is built on shaky foundations, it certainly will fall.