ENDA Kenny is to face protests when he comes to Clare on Monday, with the revised water charges still the subject of much public anger.
Gardaí met earlier this week to make plans for Monday, when the Taoiseach is set to visit TTM Healthcare at Ballymaley, speak at the Shannon Chamber president’s lunch in Dromoland and open Genworth’s new business centre in Shannon.
There is speculation that jobs will be announced at TTM Healthcare and while there were reports that new jobs would also be announced at Genworth, a company spokesman told The Clare Champion this is not the case. It is understood that another Shannon company, which is due to take on new staff in 2015, are also hopeful that the Taoiseach will visit them.
At a so-called street meeting in Shannon on Tuesday night, representatives of the We Won’t Pay anti-water charges campaign said they have plans to protest when the Taoiseach is in Clare. They also said they will be protesting outside the offices of Michael McNamara in Shannon.
Clare’s sole Sinn Féin councillor, Mike McKee, is involved with the Right2Water campaign. He said the Taoiseach’s visit will be met by protest but that every effort will be made to ensure scenes like those seen in Dublin last weekend don’t occur. “We are liaising with the gardaí and it will be a peaceful protest. In conjunction with the gardaí, we will decide where it will be and anyone who wants to cause trouble is not welcome.”
Shannon Chamber chief executive, Helen Downes said she is hopeful the president’s lunch at Dromoland will run smoothly. “We would hope it’s an event that won’t have disruptions and will run smoothly. Over 230 people are registered for the event and out of courtesy to them, we hope the protests are peaceful, if there are protests on the day.”
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Deputy Michael McNamara said he would not have a problem with people demonstrating outside his
offices, as long as those looking to enter are not intimidated or interfered with.
After being briefed on the new water charge arrangements, he feels they are quite balanced. “There’s a capped annual charge of €160 for single-adult households and €260 for all other households. That cap will continue until 2018. The metering programme will continue and anyone that has a meter introduced, if their water consumption is lower than what they are being charged, they will be able to bring it to the attention of Irish Water and they will be reimbursed. The other thing is there is a water conservation grant of €100 per year and that will apply to all people who responded to the Irish Water customer application campaign. Regardless of whether you replied that you have your own well, or are a member of a group water scheme, or are going to become a customer of Irish Water, you will get that €100 water conservation grant.”
He admitted he couldn’t say if the new arrangements will be accepted by the public. “I simply do not know, I certainly hope so. I think most fair-minded people will see this is fair. The most important thing is why this is being brought in, our water system is creaking.”
“Look at the towns that don’t have any treatment system for sewage, there are a number of them, Ballyvaughan, Clarecastle, Kilkee, Kilrush, Liscannor. There we have Kilkee, one of the most important tourism sites in Clare, pumping raw sewage into the bay.”
He said it is inaccurate to claim that general taxation is already funding water services.
“People are saying that water is provided through general taxation in the State up until now, that is not true. Water for some was provided through general taxation from all. In other words, those who had their own wells still had the same taxation burden as those who had water (provided for them for free).”
Clare’s Labour TD acknowledged that the establishment of the new utility has not been a success.
“I don’t for a moment say that the setting up of Irish Water wasn’t very badly handled. It was very badly handled but we have to move forward. If you were to abolish it all, you’d go back to the system where you pretend that there aren’t problems and that there is not inequity, where some people don’t incur the cost of a well.
“Whether you incur the cost of a well is in no way dependent on how much money you have. There are lots of people who have a well, who are very poor and live in rural areas and they have to maintain it, whether they can afford it or not. There are lots of people in group water schemes.
“Is it perfect? No, it’s not but I think it’s a damn sight better than it was and a damn sight better than doing nothing or going back to what existed beforehand,” Deputy McNamara concluded.