Fianna Fáil has responded to the emerging details of the Government’s water survival strategy. Media briefings have suggested a range of measures aimed at addressing the public’s anger about the farce that the Government have presided over with the creation of Irish Water. These measures are reported to include effectively moth-balling the €500 million metering programme, abandoning plans for additional investment in the water infrastructure and a huge new bureaucratic role for the Department of Social Protection administering a bizarre €180 million ‘cash rebate’ scheme.
Fianna Fáil’s Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen commented, “The scale of the mess created by the Government with Irish Water is genuinely staggering. Having squandered every drop of public trust on the issue, the Coalition is now in full scale panic mode trying to cobble together a package which mitigates the short term cost of their mess. However, if the briefings to media in advance of tomorrow’s announcement are accurate, Fine Gael and Labour look set to dig themselves into an ever deeper hole, undermining the entire case they have been making since taking up office.
“The Government’s new proposals involve moth-balling the €500 million metering programme that they signed up for without any cost benefit analysis. To put that into context, the first five years of revenue gathered by the ever more complicated new charge will be sunk into water meters that will probably never be read.
“An additional €200 million has been blown on a bloated quango that will simply be administering a flat charge and will not have a cent extra to invest in the infrastructure the Government told us it was created to save. This entire escapade has been a monumental waste of money, energy, opportunity and political goodwill.
Fianna Fáil’s Public Expenditure Spokesperson Sean Fleming reiterated his party’s call for a full review of the role and future of the quango and called for an investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Deputy Fleming commented, “When you piece together the cost of metering, the establishment costs of the quango, the millions spent on consultants and now the additional costs of the rebate scheme, you are looking at a €1 billion bill for the new Irish Water regime. The return on that billion is a total collapse in public faith. The new structures will deliver none of the investment we were told was in urgent demand. The Government has succeeded only in establishing an organisation that the public has simply no faith in.
“At every step of the way, with the introduction of every one of the Government’s 10 u-turns, Fine Gael and Labour ministers have succeeded in entirely undermining their own case and have created perhaps the most expensive while elephant in the history of the state.
“The ministers who signed off on this mess need to be held to account. For that reason we will be writing to the Comptroller and Auditor General seeking an investigation into the use of public funds on this project. We are also reiterating our call for a full independent review of the role and future of Irish Water. It is clear that the public and the Government have lost confidence in the organisation and we must now investigate our options for getting out of this mess in the least expensive way possible”.