The Government is clear in its policy position that the public water system run by Irish Water should remain in public ownership. The Programme for Government specifically provides that the Government will retain Irish Water in public ownership as a national, standalone, regulated utility.
The realisation of this commitment will complete the broad policy and legislative reforms which have seen the public water system embark on a journey of transformation, from a structure based on locally-organised water services authorities, towards a single, national, water utility. This has been a complex and challenging process for key stakeholders, notably the workers, who include approximately 3,200 local authority water services staff who are subject to service level agreement arrangements with Irish Water as well as a smaller number of staff employed directly by Irish Water and Ervia, together with their trade union representatives, the local government sector, and Ervia/Irish Water.
In keeping with the Programme for Government commitment, the Government recently approved a Policy Paper entitled Irish Water - Towards a national, publicly-owned, regulated water services utility which is now available on my Department's website at www.gov.ie/en/publication/06326-water-sector-transformation-policy-paper/. In setting out its views and expectations in relation to the next phase of the Water Sector Transformation Programme in this way, the Government is enabling stakeholders to engage meaningfully in the change process which will give them the strongest possible say in determining their own future working arrangements. On this basis the Workplace Relations Commission is currently re-commencing engagement between the stakeholders on a Framework for the future delivery of water services. The Government believes it will be possible to reach a collective agreement which addresses the interests and concerns of all parties.