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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 22 April, 2019
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Referendum on Irish Water could happen but needs "an awful lot more work" --- White

Support for a public vote to guarantee public ownership of water services has been gaining support in recent weeks.

Alex White and Joan Burton
Alex White and Joan Burton
Image: Niall Carson

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER Alex White has said a proposed referendum on Irish Water is a “reasonable suggestion” but has raised questions as to whether the move would be the best way to address concerns about privatisation of water services.

Support for a public vote to guarantee public ownership of water has been gaining support since the idea was first put forward at the and of last month.

Labour senators voted against Fine Gael in the Seanad this week on a motion supporting a referendum.

Speaking afterwards, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said he would bring the idea to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste.

Asked about the issue on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics today, White said “I think we’d need to do an awful lot more work on it”. 

I thinks we’ve got a bad experience in this country putting things in the Constitution that we thought meant one thing but it turned out meant something else.

Asked about a report in today’s Sunday Times that water charges would cost most households in the region of €210 per year, he said the article “does probably contain information that does show the direction the Government is going in”. 

He said a definitive statement on the issue would be made in ten days to two weeks’ time.

Kelly and White — both of whom are Labour TDs — attended a meeting of the coalition’s Economic Management Council on this week, as the Government stepped up efforts to get to grips with the issue.

The four-person panel — made up of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste Joan Burton and ministers Noonan and Howlin — met on Thursday morning.

Speaking afterwards, Enda Kenny said a “good deal of progress” had been made, but declined to speculate about numbers.

Speaking earlier in the week, Joan Burton said that family of four, including two adult children, would likely face a water bill of less than €200 a year.

Read: Irish Water will take on €130 million debt in uncollected water charges

Also: People who don’t pay water charges will NOT have their supply reduced or cut off, says Minister

More: The Green Party wants a referendum to make sure Irish Water isn’t privatised

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