With the monitoring of water consumption having begun for the introduction of the Water Charge yesterday, people are starting to get involved in local Right2Water campaigns. Over the last few days local pubs, community centres and the like all around the country have been crammed full with people eager to organise and fight this unjust charge.
Such was the case above the Kildrought Lounge, Celbridge on Tuesday night, which was opened and chaired by Grainne Lawlor, Community Solidarity activist. Brendan Ogle, Unite the Union Political Education Officer, and Brendan Young, Celbridge/Leixlip KCC Councillor, all spoke passionately about the need to join the campaign and to organise at a local level. They also touched on the issues of various types of tenancies, privatisation and non-compliance.
“As a trade unionist, we have an interest and philosophy in fighting for a better society. We see Irish Water as a means of elites taking billions from citizens while we squabble between ourselves. The concept of Right2Water is that it is broad and we can work together to defend water as a public good and a human right. […] We hope communities can fight together under this banner and philosophy.”
Brendan Ogle gave a thorough run-down of the Right2Water campaign and groups involved, highlighting that it was not for the campaign to decide how communities organised themselves or what actions they should take. The campaign is to remain broad and welcoming to all, including those who pay the charges – the only criteria is it must be agreed that water is a human right. The campaign has organised a national protest on the 11th of October; it has an online petition running and is offering to send speakers to organisations, and community groups who are interested in learning about the campaign.
Right2Water has also organised a press conference to be held today to draw attention to the campaign and to build for the protest. Brendan Ogle said it was important for people to realise that this campaign will not be fought and won quickly but will instead be a slow burner, aiming at revoking the legislation that allowed Irish Water to come into existence. He encouraged everyone to attend the protest on the 11th.
“We have an opportunity now over these next 18 months to escalate pressure… in 1997 water charges were scrapped on the eve of a general election because candidates feared they would not get elected. This means we have to put the heat on now and not wait for the election”
Brendan Young agreed that any group formed in Celbridge/Leixlip must indeed be inclusive and must be a single issue campaign to facilitate this. He made it known that non-compliance was the central tactic for the area, with local protests and actions to follow. Non-compliance means not returning the registration form. Brendan Young specified that you don’t have to destroy the form, simple stow it away in a drawer and forget about it for the time being and see how the campaign goes. Another meeting for people looking to join is to follow on the 6th at 8pm in the same location.
He stressed that this tax had been introduced before and was defeated by organised resistance at a local level, but it means that groups like Community Solidarity must start to fight now. He pointed to the fact that this charge is a regressive tax, like the household and property tax, hitting low earners the hardest as a rallying point.
Grainne Lawlor then took control of the floor for questions and comments.
One issue that seemed to cause some worry was the risk to tenants and those in social housing by not responding to Irish Water’s calls for registration and non-payment.
Since tenants are the ones responsible for payment of the charge, rather than the landlord, tenants are able to refuse to sign up and partake in non payment. The sole involvement a landlord will have here is if Irish Water asks them to confirm the tenant lives at a particular address, after which all communication will be between Irish Water and the tenant. The only way a landlord will be aware of their tenant’s compliance or non-compliance with Irish Water will be if the tenant chooses to tell them. This is the same for those in social housing: the local housing authority will be asked to confirm the tenants name and address, then will have no further communication with Irish Water. This was confirmed yesterday by a report in The Journal.
It was also noted that no means exists for Irish Water to take money from benefit payments or wages. Much like all other utility companies, such as ESB and Bord Gais, they have no possible way to enforce payment at the source and have no connection to Revenue.
Another issue raised was that of privacy and the possibility of data being sold by Irish Water to private companies. This is a strong possibility, if not guaranteed to happen. The very wording of the registration form allows for Irish Water to do this, so if Irish Water were to be privatised all personal data will be passed along with the rest of the company assets.
The high likelihood of privatisation was also discussed. Privatisation is practically inevitable due to IMF and EU bailout directives, so there is little doubt that once Irish Water takes hold it will be sold off to the highest bidder in the name of competition. This is why Irish Water was established as a for-profit business. Privatisation is problematic for a number of reasons, which Jimmy Kelly of Unite talks about here.
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