Water Charges will be met with mass opposition

There are widespread media reports today that the government will attempt to impose water charges on households in the report of the Commission on Taxation.

The Socialist Party is issuing a strong warning to the government that any attempt to re-introduce water charges will be met by a mass non-payment campaign to make this double tax uncollectible.

By Councillor Clare Daly

Imposing another charge on hard-pressed PAYE taxpayers and pensioners would represent an intolerable burden that residents will simply not be able to shoulder.

In the mid 1990s the Socialist Party led the Federation of Dublin Anti-Water Charges Campaigns, along with residents across the city and succeeded in forcing the abolition of water charges throughout the country, a victory which a government minister recently said saved householders approximately €700 per annum.

Last time round tens of thousands of Dublin householders joined the campaign, attended meetings on the issue, and refused to pay. We explained that the Councils could never take action against all non-payers, and we could make the charge uncollectible by holding firm and challenging every court case and disconnection attempt. Early on we forced them to stop attempting to disconnect water, which is now unlawful.

Hundreds of residents went to court with the campaign and defended the charge, jamming up the courts, and taking years to be heard. By twinning mass non-payment with political pressure on all of the parties who voted it is, the establishment finally caved and abolished the charge.

Bringing safe drinking water into people’s homes clearly costs money, as indeed all public services do, but that is why we pay our central taxation, so the fundamentals can be provided to all regardless of ability to pay. To levy a direct charge is charging on the double and would lay the basis for privatisation of the service.

Clearly this is the agenda behind the scenes with references to water quality and some of the poor standards in some part of the country and the idea of taking this brief away from the local authorities. Justifying the charge in the grounds of water quality is a smokescreen, as is the argument on the need to conserve water.

Half of the country’s housing stock was built since the water charges were abolished thirteen years ago, yet none of the water conservation measures which the Socialist Party called for have been introduced. As a result Irish households use far more water than their European equivalents because of house design. To expect us to pay for this short-coming in the building regulations is an insult.

The bin charges taught people that using environmental arguments to bring in a charge is a con to get people paying more tax. The bin tax has risen relentlessly and the first casualty of council cutbacks is the closure and axing of recycling centres.

People will not be fooled again. The government should take note, the poll tax sunk Thatcher, any attempt to bring in a water charge here could do the same to them!