Galway County Council this week passed a motion to support the abolition of Irish Water. The motion was proposed by Fianna Fail councillor Michael Connolly and was debated at length at the meeting in Clonboo on Monday evening. Councillors expressed a mixed range of views on the issue but the overiding sentiment expressed was major disappointment with Irish Water.
Fine Gael councillor Jimmy McClearn was critical of the proposal to abolish the company, which he claimed would mean nothing. ‘’I cannot agree with this. It’s complete and utter nonsense. It makes no sense outside of here. It means nothing and is going nowhere. I’’ll remind all the councillors here who agreed to the concept of Irish Water [Fianna Fáil] these people have short memories.’’
However the Government councillor acknowledged that there were significant issues with the country’s water and wastewater systems. ‘’We have serious issues with water quality and leaks in the system and many, many, wastewater treatment plants are in a bad state. Local authorities were denied the funding for upgrading works when the country was awash with money, but to propose that you can return water management to local authorities at this stage is nonsense. The Government’s handling and setting up of Irish Water was inadequate, there was a complete under-estimation of the amount of work that was involved in it. However that still does not deny that we need a facility like it to borrow the money to upgrade the water system without it appearing on the Governments balance sheet.’’
Portumna based Fianna Fáil councillor Anne Rabbitte was very passionate about the issue and commended the proposal. She said it was very serious and people were extremely scared about the concept and about future inability to pay. Councillor Rabbitte added that Irish people should not have to pay for water which is undrinkable. This prompted a heated reply from Councillor McClearn; ‘’Your party supported it.’’
Independent representative Jim Cuddy was very critical of Irish Water and told an anecdote about a couple who had sought an application form from the company to pay their charges. The application form failed to arrive and he maintained that Irish Water can’t even send out an application form correctly. He also added that Irish Water was a business. ‘’It is the Irish Water industry. Let’s not be codding ourselves that it is there to provide a service. It is there to make money at the expense of the Irish people. I would have every confidence in the local authorities to provide water services to a high level if they were funded correctly. Irish Water is the most expensive, bureaucratic, incompetent quango that was ever set up in the country and must be abolished.’’
Tuam electoral area councillor Seán Canney spoke about the staff bonuses issue and how this had grated with the public. However he believed that dissolving Irish Water at this stage would serve little purpose. ‘’A lot of people are not necessarily worried about Irish Water, they are worried that bonuses are being paid to workers and that the board of directors all seem to be part of the circle. We have to pay for water, that is a fact, it’s a commodity. What people want rid off is quango’s, cronyism and consultants and that is the problem. Irish Water is there now and that is the reality.’’
Independent councillor Thomas Welby said that the public is fed up of the incompetence of people running this country. ‘’Civil servants and unions are calling all the shots. They make all the decisions. The problem with Fine Gael is that they let the civil servants run all over them. They made Irish Water a top-heavy business. Who would set up a company and hire 50 per cent more staff than is needed, set up a bonus culture- to give people who cannot do their jobs a bonus. Who in private business would do this? Trade unions made the whole concept unviable from the start. We should be sending back a message to Dublin that if a lean, cost effective company cannot be set up then you should not be in charge, that we have had enough and are not taking this rubbish anymore’’ The motion that Galway County Council support the abolition of Irish Water was carried by 21 votes to 10.