By Liam Deegan
On the 2nd of September, Irish Water held a secretive conference in the Raddison Blu hotel in County Sligo. Irish Water senior executives including John Tierney, county managers, senior water engineers from both Irish Water, County Councils and which ironically included a guest appearance by a privatised Scottish Water’s head of asset management,Geoff Aitkenhead.
This was a conference that was organised to discuss the “technical aspects” of the future of Irish Water and how they can move forward “now that the dust has settled ” and “how we should learn from our mistakes and move on” was a boldly written quote shown in a presentation slide shown by a senior Irish Water executive at the outset of the conference.
There was no mention of protesters protecting their own property, no mention of people boycotting bills, no mention of Gardai being used to enforce laws unconstitutionally, no mention of how much more punishment Irish Water can take financially and no mention of how a new government will deal with Irish Water. Why? Because Irish Water believe that they are here to stay.
The nub of the conference was that everyone in attendance was to wear rose tinted glasses and pretend that everything is good and those nasty protestors and bill refuseniks will magically disappear of their own accord but somehow still pay up. Even in the wine filled after dinner glow, no one dared mention that Irish Water was in trouble. Nope, the show must go on!
However and what made it interesting is that, it was re-affirmed that Irish Water and the County Councils are in partnership for the next 12 years or so and that the Councils will continue to do the work that they have being doing for the last 9 decades funded by central government.
So that begs the following questions,
1. If the County Council’s are going to continue fixing and upgrading the water system then what is Irish Water’s role in all of this?
2. Are they just performing a money collecting service as was always suspected to be the case?
3. What logical reason would allow the County Councils (which are already taxpayer funded) become contractors to a private company in such a way that the taxpayer is actually adding a second layer of funding to the Councils or is it that the County Councils are to work on the water network and receive no income for doing so from either the State or Irish Water?
4. Or would it be that the County Councils are still being paid from the central exchequer to do the job they have historically done AND that the income derived from water charges will go directly to Irish Water to bump up the bank account in advance of perspective purchasers?
Looks like someone doesn’t want the party to end!