Irish Water

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Irish Water
Uisce Éireann
Statutory Corporation
IndustryWater industry
Founded27 July 2013 (registered as a company)
HeadquartersDublin, Ireland
Key people
Jerry Grant (Managing Director)
Websitewater.ie

Irish Water Ltd. (Irish: Uisce Éireann) is a water utility company in Ireland. The company was created by the Irish Government through the Water Services Act (2013), which formally created Irish Water as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis,[1][2] to provide "safe, clean and affordable water and waste water services" to water users in Ireland.[3] Water and wastewater services were previously provided by local authorities in Ireland.

Public concerns on operational,[4] documentation,[5][6] company responsiveness,[7] data security,[8][9] financial[10] and perceived wasteful spending issues[11] were highlighted throughout the initial months of the subsidiary's operations.[12] Together with privatisation fears,[13] these public concerns resulted in a significant volume of unreturned application forms,[14] large nationwide protests[15] and pressure on company management and the government during 2014.[16][17] In 2015, the scale of non-payment issues,[18][19] and an unfavourable assessment of the viability of the organisation as an independent entity[20] further increased attention[21][22] and calls by some to dissolve the organisation.[23] The viability of the utility was also a feature ahead of the 2016 general election,[24][25][26] and post-election discussions on government formation.[27]

Irish Water is accountable to two regulatory bodies, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is the economic regulator for the water industry, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is the environmental regulator.[28]

Formation and operation[edit]

Water supplies in Ireland are governed by the Water Services Acts of 2007 to 2014. Until 2015, this legislation provided for the provision of water and wastewater services by local authorities, with domestic usage funded through central taxation, and non-domestic usage funded via local authority rates. Under terms of a 2010 Economic Adjustment (Bailout) Programme, the then government agreed to change this arrangement.[29] From 2015, legislation came into force such that a new utility company, Irish Water, became responsible for providing water and wastewater services, with the intention that the company would be funded through direct billing. The new company was set up as a subsidiary of an existing semi-state corporation, Bord Gáis (Ervia).[30] The newly created company effectively took on the existing local authority employees and water management facilities, pipes and infrastructure.[31] Operationally, Irish Water delegates some work, for example water meter installation and customer support, to sub-contractors.[32][33][34]

Litigation and criticism[edit]

Irish Water has been the subject of several civil cases, including one taken by Crohn's Disease sufferer Elizabeth Hourihane,[35] and one taken by the Environmental Protection Agency which initiated proceedings over the standard of water in County Donegal.[36]

In 2014 and 2015, local protests were encouraged by residents across the country, and supported by Sinn Féin, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party, Eirigi, Republican Sinn Féin, 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Communist Party of Ireland, Workers' Party, Workers Solidarity Movement, Direct Democracy Ireland along with trade unionists and other civil society organisations. Those opposed to the plans physically blocked the installation of water meters and demonstrated against the introduction of water charges. A demonstration that took place in Dublin on 11 October 2014 involved approximately 130,000 (4% of Ireland's population).[citation needed] The Irish Times newspaper conducted a poll the week before which found that 33% of people intended to boycott water charges. Also on 11 October, Paul Murphy, an anti-austerity candidate, won the Dublin-West by-election. This resulted in journalist Fintan O'Toole to describe 11 October 2014 as the 'Water Rebellion'.[37][38] Further demonstrations took place in key provincial towns and cities in November 2014, and on 10 December 2014 approximately 100,000 people protested in Dublin against water charges, with the Gardaí (police) setting up barricades to establish a seclusion zone around government buildings. In response protestors blockaded roads and bridges in the city centre, postponing bus services, until the early hours of the next morning. Community groups set up to oppose water meters also reportedly physically removed water meters in the days after the protest.[39][40]

The utility and associated charges were also a feature in the 2016 general election, with a number of parties and candidates campaigning specifically on the issue.[24][25][41]

Water charges were suspended in the months following the election,[42] and an 'expert commission on the funding of water services' established to assess the issue. The commission published a report on 29 November 2016 which recommended that normal household water usage should be paid for by the State, with excessive usage paid for by the consumer in a "polluter pays" model.[43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Water Services Act 2013". Irishstatutebook.ie. 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  2. ^ "Irish Water to be Bord Gais Eireann subsidiary". Business Post. 17 April 2012.
  3. ^ "About Bord Gáis – Bord Gáis". Bordgais.ie. 2014-01-01. Archived from the original on 2014-07-22. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  4. ^ Alison Comyn (2014-07-16). "Residents' rage after paths are ripped up". Independent.ie. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  5. ^ Andrews, Kernan (2014-07-24). "Healy questions Irish Water letter demanding bank account details". Advertiser.ie. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  6. ^ Pattison, Brynmor (2014-07-14). "Irish Water: Forms will require householders' PPS numbers and more – Irish Mirror Online". Irishmirror.ie. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  7. ^ "Irish Water Bosses Now Quizzed On 'Toxic Brand'". Evening Echo. 30 October 2014. Archived from the original on 4 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Data breach investigated after Irish Water discloses bank details". Irish Times. 21 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Search for Irish Water data boss begins". Irish Examiner. 30 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Irish Water: We'll cut controversial bonuses – but only by 4pc". Irish Independent. 30 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Irish Water spent €50m despite order to use Bord Gais expertise". Independent.ie. 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  12. ^ Paul Melia and Sarah Stack (2014-07-17). "No one wants to pay the fees, admits Irish Water boss". Independent.ie. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  13. ^ "Greens call for referendum to block Irish Water privatisation". Irish Times. 27 October 2014.
  14. ^ "What the Irish Water protests have brought to Irish politics". Irish Independent. 3 November 2014. one million people in the country have refused to return application forms to Irish Water
  15. ^ "Water protests: From a torrent to a tsunami – the anger that will not subside". Irish Examiner. 3 November 2014.
  16. ^ "Irish Water: We're sorry". The Journal. 3 November 2014.
  17. ^ "How the world saw Ireland's water charge protests". The Irish Times. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  18. ^ "Revealed: Less than half of Irish Water customers have paid their bills". TheJournal.ie. 14 July 2015.
  19. ^ "Irish Water will not reveal breakdown of payments". Irish Times. 29 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Five reasons why Irish Water failed a crucial EU test". Irish Independent. 28 July 2015.
  21. ^ "Irish Water ruling 'embarrassing' for Government, Noonan admits". Irish Examiner. 28 July 2015.
  22. ^ "Irish Water: Our favourite disasters and U-turns". Irish Times. 28 July 2015.
  23. ^ "Opposition to Government: Scrap Irish Water". BreakingNews.ie. 29 July 2015.
  24. ^ a b "Fianna Fáil to abolish Irish Water until 2021 if elected". Irish Times. 11 February 2016.
  25. ^ a b "Sinn Féin unveils election billboard about water charges". TheJournal.ie. 21 January 2016.
  26. ^ "Editorial: Fianna Fail hasn't changed its spots, let's waste a few more billion abolishing Irish Water". Independent News & Media. 2 March 2016.
  27. ^ "Kenny and Martin hold further talks amid Irish Water impasse". Irish Times. 23 April 2016.
  28. ^ "CER Role ("Working with the EPA")". Commission for Energy Regulation. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  29. ^ "Government 'forced by Troika' to set up Irish Water too early". Irish Times. 26 January 2014.
  30. ^ "Irish Water timeline – A chronological look at the utility from setup to Eurostat ruling". Irish Times. 29 July 2015.
  31. ^ "Irish Water insists it WILL be reducing local authority staff numbers". TheJournal.ie. 4 January 2015.
  32. ^ "Mick Wallace: O'Brien buying Siteserv very questionable". Irish Examiner. 10 October 2014.
  33. ^ "Meter installers ask Irish Water for extra money". RTÉ News. 8 March 2015.
  34. ^ "Irish Water: Abtran hires 350 temporary staff ahead of billing". Irish Independent. 2 March 2015.
  35. ^ "Woman takes legal challenge against establishment of Irish Water". Irish Times. 30 September 2014.
  36. ^ "EPA suing Irish Water and council over water standard in Letterkenny". Irish Times. 3 October 2014.
  37. ^ "120,000 Irish protest as the good boys of Europe turn bad". IrishCentral.com. 2014-11-02. Retrieved 2015-07-29.
  38. ^ "The Irish Rebellion Over Water". New York Times. 19 December 2014.
  39. ^ "Dublin brought to standstill by water protest". Irishtimes.com. Retrieved 2015-07-29.
  40. ^ "Traffic eases after tens of thousands protest against water charges". Irishtimes.com. 2014-12-10. Retrieved 2015-07-29.
  41. ^ "Election candidates join thousands in Dublin protest against water charges". Independent News & Media. 20 February 2016.
  42. ^ "Billing of water charges to be suspended next week". Irish Times. 24 June 2016.
  43. ^ "EC to 'evaluate' expert report on water charges". RTÉ News. 30 November 2016.

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