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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C

Renua's policy on Irish Water is a little murky

The party’s manifesto has no details on how it would “dismantle” Irish Water.

WHEN LUCINDA CREIGHTON launched Renua amid much fanfare last March she said she wanted to “dismantle” Irish Water and promised a detailed policy in the coming months.

Nearly one year on, and despite publishing a rash of position documents, no such detailed policy has emerged despite Renua repeatedly criticising the government’s handling of the water issue.

We know broadly that Renua wants to scrap Irish Water as it is currently constituted, but it is in favour of the principle of charging for water.

Last year, the party’s pre-budget submission said:

RENUA Ireland believes a scheme of water charges is necessary to resolve the consequences of decades of underinvestment and inefficiency. However, RENUA Ireland also believes that Irish Water must be radically reconstituted if it is not to become the new HSE.

But, how would all of this be achieved?

The launch of the party’s general election manifesto earlier today presented the perfect opportunity to examine Renua’s water policy in detail.

4/1/2016 RENUA Ireland party leader Lucinda Creigh Mark Stedman Mark Stedman

Or so we thought.

Responding to questions, Creighton told reporters that Irish Water is “not fit-for-purpose” and that the party wants to “reconstitute a national utility to roll-out investment in our water infrastructure”.

We do support the concept. We supported the concept as it was set out both in the programme for government and indeed in the party manifestos in the last election.

Despite this, the former Fine Gael TD said that Irish Water is “not achieving the economies of scale that it’s supposed to”. 

It all sounds good, but none of the detail of how a Renua government would reconstitute Irish Water and start charging for water is contained in the manifesto. When we put this to Creighton today, she insisted: “There is.”

There isn’t. We’ve checked a few times.

The document contains no reference to Irish Water or any section which details what the party would do about the utility and water charges.

It does makes three references to “water charges”. All of them are under the tourism and hospitality sector where it says that “escalating water charges needs (sic) to be addressed”. We assume this refers to commercial water rates and not household charges which are capped.

A senior Renua source admitted to after the press conference today that they couldn’t find the water policy in the document.

If that’s the case then this lack of detail could be a problem for Renua. That much was evident from further questions on the issue that were put to Creighton later in the press conference.

When asked how much Renua would spend on reconstituting Irish Water today, Creighton said only that she didn’t “envisage any huge cost”.

She then insisted that a huge amount of money had been wasted by the utility to date. She hit out at the service level agreements – the deals stuck with local authorities over jobs, pensions and pay – and described them as “a massive rip-off of the Irish taxpayer”.

4/1/2016 RENUA Ireland party leader Lucinda Creigh Mark Stedman Mark Stedman

Asked how much consumers could be expected to pay for water under a Renua government, Creighton said the party does not believe in the current flat rate charges, which are in place until 2019.

Instead, Renua wants a basic free water allowance for every individual in the country so that people “can do the basics”.

Anyone who goes above the allowance would be charged based on a meter reading with Creighton claiming water meters had been “rolled-out to a large extent already”. As of last September, 755,000 meters had been installed across the country.

But still neither Creighton nor Renua offered any details on the most important questions for voters: How much do I have to pay for water?

We also asked how much this proposed basic free water allowance would be, but Creighton ignored our question.

The party is also against the €100 water conservation grant with Creighton describing it as “a bribe” used “to try and silence water protesters”.

But rather confusingly Renua’s deputy leader Billy Timmins then said that the level of the conservation grant should be set by the Commission for Energy Regulation and criticised government interference in the matter.

We approached Renua for more detail on the party’s water policy this afternoon.

However, a spokesperson told us that what Creighton outlined during the question and answer session today amounted to the Renua policy.

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