The Anti-Austerity Alliance has responded to media reports that Irish Water is going to fail the Eurostat test and become part of the State’s balance sheet, attributing it to the massive pressure which the anti-water charges campaign has exerted on the Government, plunging it into political crisis.
Councillor Michael O’Brien said that the failure of the Eurostat test will go down as victory for the anti-water charges movement, calling it “a direct result” of the pressure which ordinary people have been able to exert on the Government, forcing it into a succession of U-turns and climb downs.
“The key issue for Irish Water and the Government is that there is a mass boycott taking place across the country,” O’Brien said. “Despite many in the media trying to say that the anti-water charges movement is at low ebb, it’s really at a height. Fifty-seven per cent of people are engaged in the campaign through having refused to pay the first bill, which is a mass boycott.
“The boycott is sinking Irish Water and strangling its income source. The boycott is the key weapon which will finish off Irish Water. They were forced to introduce the lower flat rate and capped bills. One of the key issues in the failure of the Eurostat test seems to be the so-called ‘conservation grant’.
“We should remember that this was a concession from the Government which they felt forced to give in the face of the mass movement in opposition to the charge, to try to defuse the opposition to the charge. This failed. It was a concession given by a Government in a state of panic against a movement of ordinary people.”
Councillor Mick Barry said the situation now amounts to a “major political crisis” for the Government: “It is another humiliating defeat for their plan for water charges and Irish Water,” Barry claimed. “They have been met with opposition at every step and now they have failed the Eurostat test, which was a key part of their financial plan to keep it off balance sheet.
“The logic of now continuing with Irish Water is gone. According to the Government the reason for establishing Irish Water was to allow it to borrow off balance sheet. This is now not going to happen, so it should be abolished. If they maintain Irish Water it is obvious that they are keeping it ultimately for privatisation.
“The majority aren’t paying and Eurostat thinks the ‘off balance sheet’ model is a sham. If he had any shame, Alan Kelly would immediately resign. The Government should now accept defeat, withdraw the water charges, abolish Irish Water, and prepare for some actual investment in the water infrastructure.
“For anti-water charges campaigners the key thing which we have to do now is to continue to organise for the second Irish Water bill, which will be arriving through people’s doors shortly. The boycott is the key weapon we have now. If the level of the boycott for the second bill increases it will be the final nail in the coffin of the Irish Water and the Fine Gael/Labour government.
“On August 29 people should mobilise for the Right2Water protest, which can be a mass wake for Irish Water,” he said.