Current Affairs Politics

The Imposition Of Water Taxes Goes International

The imposition of the EU-IMF-ECB demanded water taxes in Ireland leads to public protests, violent confrontations with the forces of the state and arrests

The imposition of the new Troika-dictated water tax on Irish households by the Fine Oibre coalition government has started to make international headlines, particularly as protests around the country get more voluble. From BBC News:

“The Emerald Isle can thank a damp climate for its greenery, with plenty of rain and no shortage of water. But a drought of investment for decades means its water infrastructure falls short of international standards.

The people of Boyle must boil their tap water as it is unfit to drink, contaminated by bacteria that out-of-date treatment plants cannot purify.

As he leaves a shop in the town clutching large bottles of water, Sean O’Dowd says he no longer takes any chances.

“You’re going to be violently sick for 24 hours – it’s as simple as that. It has happened to me twice. But not a third time.”

Responding to public anger, an eleventh-hour discount from water charges has been announced for those with undrinkable tap water, but it will not help some businesses.

A resident taken ill during confrontations surrounding the installation of water charge meters in a Dublin suburb, Ireland

Raising money from water charges was a condition imposed on Ireland by the EU-IMF-ECB troika as part of the country’s bailout in 2010 following economic collapse.

Protests have taken place in different parts of the country, usually when contractors come to install meters for the new water-charging regime.

At one such demonstration in a west Dublin suburb, contractors watch from their vans as residents chant: “Irish water will be free, from the river to the sea.”

“We could supply the rest of Europe with water – we get that much of it. We’re all wondering now what’s going to happen – are they going to charge us for air?” asks another protester.

Paul Parsons is not involved in the protests but, standing outside his front door, he expresses a view which he claims is widespread among his neighbours.

“I don’t think the government realise how much of a burden it would be to the people around this area who are already stretched financially – paying tax after tax after tax – and this is just one tax too far.”

Demonstrations elsewhere in Dublin have been angrier – with some protesters warned they could face jail if they breach court orders.

Until now, water was funded from central and local government taxes – but paying for an essential that seemed to come for free appears to have generated more steam than most austerity cuts – with phone-ins and talk-shows deluged with debate over the measure.

Revelations that 86m euros is being spent on consultants to set up a new state-sponsored company in charge of water services, Irish Water, led to a national political storm.”

Remember: we are already paying for our water supply and treatment through general taxation, and have been doing so for many years. So-called water charges are simply double-taxation with the long term objective of subjecting ordinary citizens to an inescapable (and perpetual) service monopoly. A monopoly that will almost certainly be privatised at some stage in the future and to the considerable benefit of those involved in its establishment.

This is one Irish political scandal that is set to grow and grow in the years ahead.

14 comments on “The Imposition Of Water Taxes Goes International

  1. Provided those who genuinely cant afford them are catered for, then paying for water is a good idea. It costs money to supply and people (in capitalist society) don’t seem to value things they get for free. Whether the service is privatised is also not necessarily a problem as long as such a natural monopoly is generating profit for shareholders who have no competition – in Wales the water company moved away from being a profit making venture after privitisation.

    There is a ‘green’ issue here and all houses should be designed to conserve water sensibly – and having meters greatly helps in that process.


    • However all advanced states provide certain services for “free” to the citizenry, education being the prime example. Basic education funded through general taxation is provided to the children of all citizens by the state with the legal obligation that children must avail of it (additional costs/charges imposed by schools is another matter). Those citizens dissatisfied with that basic service are free to seek private education (though I actually disagree with the latter).

      Water supplies fall into the same category, something that is beneficial to the citizenry as whole and which the state provides through an existing system of general taxation. Those unhappy with that can seek alternative avenues of supply. Businesses of course are another matter and should pay for the commercial use of water (as they have always done so). That includes taxing bottling companies/plants for the exploitation of natural resources that belong to the state (people) as a whole.

      What was needed was a reallocation of existing resources into fixing a broken system with an investment in encouraging water-conservation. Not submitting to the diktats of the Troika over the heads of the citizenry.

      All inescapable monopolies that fall into private hands in a capitalist system will be liable to abuse. It is the nature of the beast. Profit will inevitably become the prime motivator.

      I suppose it comes down to how one views a nation-state, its purpose and function. For me the state of Ireland has no other purpose than to serve the needs of its citizens in a fair and equitable manner. A nation is a community of communities. It is not a business or corporation. The talk of “Ireland Inc.” is anathema to me.

      That to me is the essence of social-democracy. And Irish republicanism.


      • If you have to pay for water – you’ll try to conserve it.
        How else can you encourage conservation?

        Do you think that electricity should be free too?


        • We’ve paid for electricity, a costly man-made resource to produce, maintain and transmit, since supplies began 90 years ago. Water literally falls from the sky (and rises from the ground). It is a natural never-ending, self-renewing resource (if managed correctly). Water conservation in Ireland is a long way down our list of environmental challenges despite the scare stories about the capital. If predictions about climate change in the Celtic Isles are correct we will have more water than we can handle in the decades ahead.

          Electricity supplies in Ireland are subsidised to some low income sectors.

          If the government wants to give me a 300 euro rebate each year against the cost of water charges that I have already paid for since turning 18 and will continue to pay for in general taxation then go ahead. But they are not doing that. They are charging me for water in general taxation then charging me again through individualised charges. Double-taxation with sod all representation. We’ve been down this road before in some local councils.

          In a few years another national resource will be sold off to some private corporate giant so it may make a financial killing once the 10 or 15 year commitments in the initial contract to no price hikes over X% have lapsed. I can write the script now.


          • Water literally falls from the sky (and rises from the ground)
            You can’t simply use that – it needs to be collected and filtered and that costs money.
            Delivery network + wastewater treatment cost money as well.

            They are charging me for water in general taxation then charging me again through individualised charges
            Money from general taxation apparently is not enough any more.
            I think it’s better to get additional money based on usage not increase taxes equally for everyone.

            I don’t want to pay for my neighbour’s swimming pool and car washing – thank you very much.


  2. re. “Water supplies fall into the same category, ”

    Water services. are generally categorised as a utility – education and health are not utilities.

    re. “However all advanced states provide certain services for “free” to the citizenry”

    I don’t know the answer to this – but which advanced states don’t charge for water?


    • So perhaps water services should be classified as one of the essential services provided by the state along with education, health, social welfare, policing and criminal justice, etc.? And which are met through general taxation. Or should we get charged a fee every time we call out the Gardaí? Should people in areas with higher rates of crime be charged more?

      The “(re-)introduction” of water charges into Ireland has been favoured by the EU since the 1990s (as we are constantly being chided by the powers that be, “everywhere” in Europe has them). The intervention of the Troika was a wedge to introduce this and other measures. Not the EU’s fault. That’s it policies. It’s entirely our fault for electing such incompetent rogues who have permitted this.

      It’s just a pity that we always pick from the shitty end of the European stick, the worse of Britain or Germany rather than the best of Sweden or Finland.


      • Sweden has way higher taxes than Ireland. And they also have water charges.

        Seems like that you want everything from the state for free and also want low taxes.
        That’s not how it works.
        Left-wing policies require high taxes.


        • I don’t mind Swedish taxes for Swedish services. Not Swedish taxes for American services.


        • Irish people deserve free water, given that they already pay for it in general taxation, but more importantly, as an apology from the government for handing 80 billion of Irish taxpayer money to private banks.


  3. As mentioned above – water is a utility – akin as rightly pointed out above to electricity. Are you suggesting that electricity should be free?

    Water is expensive to collect and treat and people (who can afford it) should pay for it and irrespective of whether paying for it or not it should be metered.

    Health and Education and Justice are services that should as far as a country can afford it, in my opinion, be supplied by the state. In an ideal world water would be free as well but we cant afford people to waste water and have ‘middle income’ people and ‘wealthy people using as much water as they want in their larger houses and gardens – and ‘poor’ people having to pay for it through general taxation.

    Are you saying Sweden or Finland have no charge for water?


    • You can live without electricity but not water…..they are not the same at all, I really wish people would stop making that comparison!


  4. The anti-water charge bandwagon – what is left of it will slowly run down the hill – and come to a stop and those left sitting on it will quietly slip away.

    “That to me is the essence of social-democracy. And Irish republicanism. ”

    Attempting to conflate the issue with ‘Republicanism’ is a bit of stretch – an old FF and SF trick that doesn’t wash (with paid for or unpaid for water) any more (hopefully).

    But perhaps I’m missing something and a load of pictures showing the Gardaí enforcing the law of the land doesn’t do it for me until someone explains (as pointed out by Janis above) why the good people of Finglas and Ballyfermot should help pay for the good people of Foxrock and Blackrock to fill their swimming pools and water their lawns.

    … and a few examples of other western countries that don’t have water charges might help advance the case at least a bit?


  5. Anyway – I dug up some of my water bills from Latvia.

    I generally used about ~4 m3 per month. So the free allowance could cover about 7-8 months of my usage.
    That means I would only have to pay for 18-20 m3 per year which is about ~100 eur per year – which is goddamn peanuts and a non-issue when compared to my salary which is pretty average by Irish standards.


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