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Councillors clash over call to abolish Irish Water

Thursday, 15th October, 2020 8:31am
Councillors clash over call to abolish Irish Water

Senior representatives of Irish Water in the coming weeks to discuss a range of issues, including treatment plant.

Councillors clash over call to abolish Irish Water

Senior representatives of Irish Water in the coming weeks to discuss a range of issues, including treatment plant.

Frustrated local councillors this week clashed over a notice of motion calling for the abolition of Irish Water. At a meeting of Tipperary Co Council, Cllr David Dunne wanted the council to “call on the Government to start the orderly windup of Irish Water and for water services to be brought back under the remit of the county council”. Cllr Dunne said councillors have been dealing with “nothing but complaints regarding Irish Water and the service we're getting from them”. While he did not expect his motion would get rid of Irish Water, he hoped it would begin a national discourse towards that end.


In support, Cllr Séamie Morris said housing construction is being held up in Nenagh, Ballina, Silvermines and Cloughjordan over wastewater treatment plant capacity issues. Yet, at the same time Irish Water is spending €300 million between surveys and a planning application to pump water from the Shannon to Dublin and the East Midlands, a project that “will never happen”, Cllr Morris said. Accusing the utility of “wasting money”, Cllr Morris described Irish Water as “an entity that wasn't needed, and they're an entity that is not working”.


Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Smith asked those in favour of the motion to consider the implications it would have for the council's budget. CEO Joe MacGrath said he would be meeting with senior representatives of Irish Water in the coming weeks to discuss a range of issues, including treatment plant capacity. He said he could not attend such a meeting if Cllr Dunne's motion was passed. The more appropriate action would be to seek increased investment in capital infrastructure in water services, Mr MacGrath said. 


Cllr Roger Kennedy agreed and asked his fellow councillors to adopt a similar view in support of the CEO's position. “If we pass this, we’re sending him up with his two hands tied behind his back,” Cllr Kennedy said, adding that the situation must be considered through the perspective of the Covid-19 pandemic. We're in the middle of World War Three, whether we like it or not, and it's an invisible enemy we're competing with,” he said. “This motion is ill-timed. I'm not a lover of Irish Water but now is not the time.”


Several other councillors spoke in support of the motion but agreed that it should not be passed in light of the CEO's upcoming meeting. Cllr Anne Marie Ryan maintained that the council would provide a better standard of service if it still had control of all water services. She described Irish Water's meetings with councillors as “abysmal”; “everything was ‘I'll get back to you’,” she said of one recent meeting.


Cllr Siobhan Ambrose also took issue with the level of service in Tipperary. “It's appalling the way we're being treated,” she commented. Mr MacGrath said he would convey the councillors’ frustrations to the senior representatives of Irish Water. The fundamental issue is investment in services, he observed.


Cllr Dunne had no problem deferring his notice of motion but warned that he would bring it back if the CEO's meeting does not prove successful. Cllr Morris asked that the case for “dropping” the Shannon pipe project would also be presented to Irish Water.

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