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Water climbdown - not before time

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Climbdown though it may have been, yesterday's announcement by the Government will be welcomed by the vast majority of consumers.

Irish Water has been little short of a disaster so far, but perhaps unfairly described by the Fianna Fail spokesman Barry Cowen, as "a gold-plated, bonus-driven, super quango". We must recognise, however, that we need Irish Water, but we need it to be efficient, cost-conscious and consumer-friendly, elements sadly lacking until yesterday.

But we cannot ignore the fact that almost a million people have signed up to pay their water bills, and considerably more are likely to do so now that realistic charges have been set. This is the aim of the Minister for Environment Alan Kelly, who since coming into office has shown a commendable determination to admit the mistakes of the past and get on with the job of repairing the public damage that has been done to the utility. Water is a vital natural resource.

It is one that we have wasted over the years with lack of investment, which has resulted in water shortages, boil notices and pollution.

Now, many of those who were vociferously against paying for water at all costs are questioning where the money is going to come from to remedy these problems.

Certainly, many people who marched in previous anti-water protests will now be having second thoughts. This is not only because the new scheme of charges is more palatable and that PPS numbers will no longer be required. Recent incidents have shown that what appeared to be a genuine protest movement has been, to an extent, hijacked by those with a pseudo-Soviet political agenda that has little or no electoral mandate.

It is now up to a new board of Irish Water to convince people that it will do things differently, and let us not forget that despite the controversy many people are prepared to pay for water. They may not like it, but they see the necessity for handing on a modern, pollution-free water system to future generations.

The Government has engaged in a massive climbdown, it is politically damaged, but maybe it is time we gave it some credit for doing the right thing, belatedly as it may be.

Credit Unions say yes to social housing

Central Bank regulations, which are due to come into force in January, are going to make it very difficult for those buying their first house to get their feet on the much-famed 'property ladder'.

Today, Mr Martin Sisk, President of the Irish League of Credit Unions, makes it quite clear that credit unions will not be in the business of 'top-ups' to circumvent these regulations. A majority of house purchasers will have to raise a deposit of 20pc. With average house prices in Dublin at €240,000, or about €150,000 outside the capital, it means first-time buyers have to put together a deposit of €50,000 in Dublin, or €30,000 outside the capital, before they can make an offer.

Mr Sisk insists that Credit Unions are not in this business, their average loan is €3,000 and while they are still in the market to lend, this is not the kind of business they want. The good news, however, is that credit unions, which have large amounts of excess funds, are prepared to put this money into social housing and are talking to the Government about becoming involved in this area, which is an integral part of credit union philosophy and ethos.

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