Farm Ireland

Wednesday 20 March 2019

'Officially lesser citizens': Farm families now set to pay 'on the double' for water

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Proposed changes to water charges have been met with anger from many in rural areas particularly farmers.

The President of the ICMSA, John Comer, has said that farm families and the hundreds of rural communities using their own wells or privately funded group water schemes can only now conclude that they are officially designated as ‘lesser citizens’ compared with their urban and suburban counterparts. 

Mr Comer comments comes the back of the Expert Commission on Water’s recommendations that the provision of water be paid by means of general taxation.

“Now meant that those people already paying for their own water, whether through wells or group water schemes, would now actually be paying ‘on the double’.

Meanwhile, he says “those who had never paid for their own water usage – and who may not be contributing through any form of direct taxation – escape any effective charge whatsoever.”

Mr Comer accepted that the issue of water charges was hugely problematic but he said that farmers and rural communities could not help but notice that the issue of paying for water only became a crisis when people living in the cities, towns and suburbs were asked to pay for their water usage. 

He said it was quite astonishing to note how few commentators seemed to object to the reality that would see rural dwellers and farmers with their own wells -  purchased and maintained privately – now having to pay increased taxation to fund the provision of water for the general population.

The ICMSA President said that the line of reasoning implicit in the Expert Commission’s recommendations was so manifestly unfair to those people already paying for their own water provision – in many cases for decades.

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He said that when finalising its position on water charges the Government will have to make financial provision for rural dwellers who are now, and have been for decades,  paying for water.

Mr Comer said that such a provision will have to go beyond a grant to upgrade an individual well.  The discrimination against rural dwellers that has been so readily apparent in the discussion of this matter since it was first raised must be addressed in fair and equitable fashion.     

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