Water charges are likely to be one of the key concerns in the upcoming elections. Here we interview Seamus O’ Boyle on why People Before Profit are so opposed to charging for water.
(Q) Why are People Before Profit opposed to water charges?
Seamus - The principal reason is that water is essential to healthy living and cleanliness. Water is one of the basic rights that humans should be entitled to and for this reason we favour a system that collects taxes from those that can pay in order to provide water for everyone in the community. Peoples needs rather than their ability to pay should be the basis on which water should be allocated. This is hardly radical stuff, after all, no one would expect poor children to be excluded from schools, so how can we expect poor people to be excluded from using water if they cannot pay.
(Q) – Ok that makes sense but are there any other considerations?
Seamus - Yes. We also oppose water taxes for two other reasons. First off, water has always been paid for by householders through taxation and businesses by their rates. This means that asking us to pay again is a form of double taxation. As if this wasn’t bad enough the extra money collected isn’t even going on better services for ordinary people. The idea to push water taxes, which will be around €300 a year, has come from the International Monetary Fund and the business union IBEC. In both cases the agenda is very simple – push taxes away from business and high earners onto ordinary people. The IMF have been doing this for years through their policies in poorer countries and now they want to apply the same model to Ireland.
(Q) - Making the poor pay seems unfair but what about the conservation argument?
Seamus – Years ago people like Eamon Gilmore and many others in the Labour party went on record to argue that water was a human right and must be paid for out of taxation. In government they have now changed their tune, so they want an excuse that doesn’t make them look like hypocrites. The main excuse they have come up with is the conservation argument. This starts from the idea that water is scarce and needs to be protected. So far so good, but the problem with this argument is the fact that for decades Irish governments have allowed billions of litres of water to seep out of the system back into the ground water. As much as 40% of all Irish treated water never reaches the end uses. But instead of putting money into fixing the infrastructure, the government have used billions of euro installing metres to bill people. This shows that the real agenda is to make people pay. Irish Water have even admitted that if people use less water as a means of conservation there bills may well go up.
(Q) Any final comments?
Seamus – Water is essential for a normal life lived with dignity. This is as true today as it was in the 1990’s when Eamon Gilmore said it and I would appeal to everyone to get involved in the campaign to stop these unfair charges. People power is the only thing that can force the government to stop putting the costs of the economic crisis on to lower and middle income families the vulnerable and the poor. People power is what PBP is all about and voting for me is just another part of an overall strategy to prioritise people’s needs not bankers greed.