By Eoin Molloy
A sitting FG senator named Martin Conway told an incredulous Vincent Browne during a TV3 debate last night that ‘water does not fall from the sky.’
The senator back-tracked quickly, adding that water is a ‘finite resource’ as it ‘has to be purified’ before it can be consumed. Martin Conway clearly needs to consult his secondary school geography water cycle diagram. Water most definitely falls from the sky as rain. You actually could not make this up. See here:
This follows on from a series of serious blunders in the implementation of the water charges by Fine Gael. It all began with the simple blue logo of Irish Water Ltd. They paid a graphics designer 20,000 euro to design a relatively simple, straightforward logo. The logo, which simply spells out Irish Water’s name in Irish and English against a blue backdrop cost more than what a minimum wage worker earns in a year.
Managing director of Irish Water, John Tierney, defended this grotesque payment saying that it is ‘absolutely necessary’ for new brands to establish themselves. Surely he’s correct, but establishing a brand is one thing and paying a year’s salary for a logo that looks like it was made in paint is another.
According to Tierney, this was a ‘very small amount’ to spend ‘in branding terms.’ It appears that the ruling elite still have no sense of perspective when it comes to distributing largesse. Let this sink in, this logo cost 20 big ones:
The managing directors of Irish Water Ltd were in the firing line again after they spent over 80 million euro on consultants. They paid out 44m to IBM, 17m to Accenture and 5m to Ernst and Young. These contracts were handed out without being offered for public competition. Irish Water defended themselves by saying that they were ‘scrupulous’ in handing out the contracts. Well, alright then. Oligarchy is okay as long as everyone minds their scruples.
The latest stop on the Irish Water gravy train will see employees who exceed their targets receive bonuses of up to 19% of their salary. Even staff who have been marked ‘need improvement’ at their end-of-year review will stand to receive a modest bonus.
FF leader Michael Martin gave his tuppence on the matter, saying that bonuses will ‘undermine’ the work of Irish Water. Former Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Fergus O’Dowd said that Irish Water have come across as arrogant time and time again and has become prone to ‘shooting itself in the foot’. Richard Bruton also waded into the debate saying that bonuses were none of the government’s business as it ‘is a company matter’. As of now, there are rumours that the government will seek to restructure Irish Water when the board is reviewed in November.
Following on from this string of impressive calamities, Irish Water faced fresh controversy when it was revealed that they will be charging a minimum of 188 euro for a call-out to fix a leak. To put that in perspective, that is almost the entire weekly wage of a minimum wage worker working 25 hours a week. With ridiculous figures like this flying around, it’s little wonder that the ‘can’t pay, won’t pay’ movement is growing.
According to a 2012 study by the EPA, 30 public supplies of water in Ireland are on a ‘boil’ notice. That being, they must boil their water before using it as it is not safe to drink due to the presence of lead, E. coli and/or Cryptosporidium. Over 15,000 people in Roscommon alone can’t consume the water in their tap without boiling it first. How could you expect these people to be eager to pay for their water? Irish Water has a lot of work to do if it is to win over the public, especially in areas like Roscommon.
And it’s not like the government themselves have been handling the Irish Water debacle smoothly either. Joan Burton: Labour leader, champion of the people and the physical spearhead of the left in Ireland noted rather arrogantly that people protesting against the insertion of water meters had ‘expensive phones’. This is actually worse than the guy who forgot water comes from the sky.
Ms Burton has implied that since a person has the capacity to buy a smartphone, they should pay their water charge without protest. This is beyond a joke for two reasons. Firstly, even those who have the means of paying for their water have the right to protest. We live in a god-damn democracy. And even those who have little capacity to pay for their water can get camera phones cheaply enough nowadays, either on bill pay plans or by buying them second hand.
Ms Burton and her reductive fallacy argument can go and drink a glass of Roscommon water if she thinks that people having decent phones has anything to do with their willingness to pay for water. Ms Burton and the rest of the government do not want anyone to question their policies. Please note that this article has been written on a modestly-priced laptop.
The sheer ineptitude of Irish Water is single-handedly washing away the political apathy of many. The people are resisting. On Saturday, October 11, over 50,000 people marched through Dublin city to protest the water charges. According to the Irish Times, the number could have been as high as 100,000.
TDs Richard Boyd Barrett and Clare Daly addressed the crowd, urging them not to pay their charges come January. Mr Boyd Barrett asked the crowd to ‘bring the country to a standstill’ come November 1, when nationwide demonstrations against the water charges will be held.
Paying for water is one thing, but paying for expensive logos and doling out contracts to multi-national corporations without public competition is another. It would have been far easier for the public to ingest the water charges without the successive PR blunders made by the government and Irish Water themselves. For now, the people seem defiant. TD Clare Daly said: ‘the people are here, and they have brought their phones, you won’t get any more blood from these stones.’
Irish Water will surely have a tough time regaining the confidence they have lost amongst the public. It seems likely that their board will be re-evaluated by the government in November. Whatever the case, Irish Water is fast becoming a running joke that this government needs to deal with. It seems as though there will be a review of Irish Water coming in the next few weeks.