Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has said that a referendum on public ownership of water is now urgent.
His comments come as negotiations between Irish Water, the Department of Housing, Council Management and water service unions on the creation of a single water utility have concluded.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“This week, the Department of Housing issued a final paper arising from the single water utility negotiations. The document deals with issues including a referendum on public ownership, the nature of the proposed utility and its relationship with local government.
“The document is extremely disappointing and incredibly vague. There is no commitment from government to hold a referendum to ensure that water services remain in public ownership.
“There is no clarity on whether the proposed water utility will be a commercial or non-commercial semi-state body. There is no detail in terms of the future relationship between the water utility and local authorities.
“From the outset of these negotiations in 2018, Sinn Féin made clear that we would not interfere in the industrial relations aspect of the single utility negotiations.
“That is a matter for workers, their union representatives and the employer. However, there are wider public policy issues which we believe must be addressed if the move to a single water utility is to proceed.
“We need constitutional protection of the public ownership of our water system to protect against any future threat of privatisation.
“We believe that any such utility should be a non-commercial semi-state body. And, crucially, we believe there should be a continued footprint of water services staff in local authorities to maintain the connection with local communities and council housing and planning departments.
“None of these issues are dealt with in any meaningful way in the Department’s document circulated this week. We will continue to make the case for these wider policy reforms to ensure that the public get the highest quality public water service.”