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Howlin insists no possibility of selling off Irish Water

The public expenditure minister says Irish Water will not form part of the Bord Gais sell-off – but the opposition aren’t convinced.

PUBLIC EXPENDITURE MINISTER Brendan Howlin has again insisted that the new body being set up to oversee the installation of domestic water meters, and charging for the use of water, will not later be privatised.

Howlin told the Dáil that Irish Water would be a “wholly state-owned company”, a status enshrined in law.

The minister was forced to make the repeat declaration after Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming accused the government of “making a hames” of the proposed privatisation.

Fleming pointed out that that the government was preparing to establish Irish Water as an “independent subsidiary” of Bord Gais – a term he said was oxymoronic – when it had already indicated plans to sell off parts of Bord Gais in its programme to sell state assets.

“I accept that it’s not your intention, but I’m asking you in the light of this to please remove Bord Gais, or the sale of any assets of Bord Gais,” Fleming said.

Howlin responded with insistences that Irish Water would be “wholly different from the gas-generating, or the energy generating component, of Bord Gais Energy”.

Howlin described Irish Water as “the next major State company – the biggest since the ESB was founded”, and said it was being established under Bord Gais because that company already had experience in the operation of a metered energy system.

“The parallel issue of setting up competition within the energy sector, which the energy generating component of Bord Gais will provide… will also be good for the consumer,” Howlin said.

Fleming was not convinced, and accused Howlin of “confusing the issue the more you speak”.

Read: Varadkar apologises over water charges confusion

More: Government insists only 300,000 homes won’t have meters

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Gavan Reilly

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