I stood in the recent general election as a Right2Water and Right2Change candidate and have been involved in the movement since the initial stages. I congratulate all water campaigners around the country who in the past two and a half or three years stood up to be counted. Hundreds of thousands of people went out onto the streets. Community campaigners, anti-metering protestors and those who fought Irish Water on every street and estate and in every village, town and city stood up to be counted. They also stood up to the political parties. People power has won its first victory against water charges. Those involved have forced the political parties to retreat. The emerging deal – a fudge – is the first victory as the Government and Fianna Fáil have been forced to back down, but they did not do so voluntarily. They did it under the pressure exerted by people power. A word of caution to everyone involved in the campaign: he or she should stay organised and continue to resist metering. The political parties are treacherous and may attempt to reintroduce water charges. Today’s bad tempered rant by the caretaker Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, may be an indication of what is to come. If we stay organised and continue to resist metering, however, water charges will be dead and buried.
As we have said from the beginning, water charges are unjust and represent double taxation. They were the straw that broke the camel’s back among people who had been devastated by austerity, in particular low and middle income families. A motion on the Order Paper that has been signed by 39 Deputies calls for the abolition of water charges and the enshrining in the Constitution of the public ownership of water infrastructure. It should be debated urgently, but, unfortunately, Fianna Fáil has agreed with Fine Gael to prevent that from happening. I appeal to Fianna Fáil, the Members of which where elected on a pledge to end water charges, to allow the motion to be tabled and voted on, as there is a majority in the House in favour of abolishing water charges. Irish Water must be abolished as it has been a disaster for ordinary people. We must also ensure the many people who paid their water charges under duress – the elderly people who were afraid and people who were ill and worried certainly did not pay voluntarily – will have their money refunded. It is important that the legislation underpinning domestic water charges is repealed. I appeal to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to allow the motion on the Order Paper to be debated and voted on so as to put water charges and Irish Water to bed once and for all.