Wednesday 18 October 2017

Politics of water is all going down the plug hole

Environment Minister Alan Kelly with Irish Water chief John Tierney at a media briefing. ‘While not as electorally damaging for Fine Gael, the whole thing has been disastrous for the Labour Party, ‘ Photo: Mark Condren
Environment Minister Alan Kelly with Irish Water chief John Tierney at a media briefing. ‘While not as electorally damaging for Fine Gael, the whole thing has been disastrous for the Labour Party, ‘ Photo: Mark Condren
Liz O'Donnell

Liz O'Donnell

There were echoes of the electronic voting machines debacle this week with yet another twist in the Irish Water saga.

This time it was an unwelcome but not wholly unexpected report from Eurostat declaring that the cost of Irish Water had to remain on the State balance sheet. The company had failed the so-called "market corporation test". Households were not paying an economically significant contribution to the true cost of water. The cost of funding the €5.5bn investment programme into Irish Water to 2021 will be largely borne by the State. The level of Government control of the utility via board appointments and control of pricing was also criticised. Eurostat saw Irish Water for what it is, essentially an expensive State-funded quango.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan played it down; it wouldn't affect the October Budget. But there was no hiding the blushes and disappointment of the Government parties. In retrospect, it was probably delusional on the Government's part to attempt to decouple it from the State as an independent body, given all the backsliding on charges which would have allowed it to be commercially viable and independent.

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