By Councillor Mick Barry
GREEN PARTY Minister for the Environment John Gormley spoke in April of the inevitability of the return of domestic water charges. With the Commission on Taxation due to report to the government in July on methods of increasing tax revenue and with another Budget due in December, this represents a real threat to workers and their families. Minister Mary Hanafin told the Irish Times last December, “If we had domestic water charges in Ireland, families would be paying €700 or €800 per annum.”
Charging for water would cripple the finances of many families already hit hard by the doubling of the income levies and cuts in mortgage interest relief and childcare supplements. Water charges introduced by councils would be a step in the direction of the privatisation of water supply and massive increases in charges. Once money can be made from it, private operators will fight tooth and nail to get their hands on control of the service and once they do, prices will go through the roof.
Labour’s Housing and Local Government spokesperson Ciaran Lynch claimed in the aftermath of Gormley’s speech that Labour had abolished water charges in 1997. He omitted to mention that it was the Fine Gael-Labour-Democratic Left government of the mid-1990s that had tried to implement water charges in the first place!
The successful anti-water charges campaign of the mid-1990s was built on the rock of organised mass non-payment of the double tax and was led by the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party are committed to building a similar campaign should Fianna Fail, the Greens or any of the parties of the political establishment try to implement water charges again.