THANKS TO the Green Party and Fianna Fail’s continued attempts to make ordinary workers pay for the economic crisis, domestic water charges are on the way back for householders, 15 years after they were abolished.
A mass campaign of non-payment in Dublin organised by the Federation of Dublin Anti Water Charges Campaigns, a campaign in which the Socialist Party played a crucial central role, forced the then rainbow government of Labour, Fine Gael and Democratic Left to abolish them throughout the country.
The new charges are to be introduced on the basis of metering, which is an attempt to put an environmental spin on them. According to the government, households will be allocated a “free” quantity of water and only when they exceed this amount will they start paying. Of course, if you are wealthy you are free to use as much as you wish because you can afford to pay for it. Many households who are suffering financially would be forced to monitor every drop they use to keep their bills down. Metering has nothing to do with the environment – the purpose of the meter is to commodify the water so its use can be charged. This will ultimately lead to privatisation which is the same process that has happened to waste management around the country.
Government ministers have said that had we not succeeded in forcing the abolition of water charges in the 1990s, households would now be paying €800 per annum. Talk of initial charges of €175 while meters are being installed is only the start. The harsh lessons of the bin tax should help expose the lies that the measure is to conserve water and that people will only be charged above a certain level. Remember the bin tax catch-call “You only pay for what you throw away” – not anymore. Once a charge is introduced, it will rise relentlessly – the same will happen with water charges.
The Socialist Party will be organising a mass campaign of opposition to these new charges. We will be resisting the installation of meters throughout the country and advocating a mass non payment of the charge.
Joe Higgins MEP, former chairperson of the Federation of Dublin Anti-Water Charges Campaigns, has called an anti water charges forum on Saturday 13 February in the Teachers Club, Parnell Square at 12pm. This forum will outline ideas for the type of campaign that is necessary to beat this new double tax.