I wrote to the Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government on 11 July 2018 to provide an update on work to develop an alternative wording for a constitutional amendment on the public ownership of water services with a view to amending the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) (No. 2) Bill 2016.
Government is firmly committed to public water services remaining in public ownership and this is reflected in the Water Services Acts. The Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025 approved by Government and published by me in May 2018 acknowledges that there is widespread support for this view, as recognised in the Oireachtas approval in April 2017 of the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services which supports the concept of a referendum on the issue of water services continuing in public ownership. The Water Services Policy Statement further notes that the question of the holding of a referendum is currently before the Dáil Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government where I have indicated my willingness to facilitate the holding of a referendum if a robust wording can be agreed, and where this does not have unintended consequences for group and private water services.
Contacts and discussions have been taking place between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General, with this engagement considering different approaches to the wording of a Constitutional amendment. In this regard, in early July I received written advice from the Attorney General on the matter and officials in my Department have been reviewing this. My aim is to be in a position to bring a recommendation to Government on a wording capable of being prepared as an amendment to the Bill. I hope to have clarity on the intended approach during the coming month when I plan to write again to the Committee.
In the meantime, I would welcome the opportunity of meeting with the Deputy, who is a sponsor of the Bill, to advise on recent progress. My office will make contact with the Deputy in this regard.