Irish Republican News · November 22, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Troika behind the scenes as flat charges announced


The battle over the 26 County state’s austerity programme has again seen the malign involvement of international officials seeking to dictate the state’s fiscal measures.

Senior officials from each of the ‘Troika’ institutions were tut-tutting in Dublin this week in their second post-bailout inspection of the government’s affairs. Their involvement came as the Dublin government announced that it would introduce a flat rate for water charges for most people.

The International Monetary Fund said the annual state budget for 2015 “makes less progress than desirable”. It added that the national debt -- bloated by the cost of bailing out banks and bondholders in the 2008 financial collapse -- must be paid down further.

Officials at the EU commission expressed concern that a reduction in water charges could jeopardise fiscal planning. There were also threats that the commission would insist on the accumulated debts of Irish Water remaining on the State’s balance sheet, undermining statistics which point to increased economic activity.

“It’s difficult to comprehend people telling us to cut faster when we’re exceeding all deficit targets and have the fastest growing economy in Europe,” said one Minister, in response to the European statement.

The troika mission took place as the coalition sought desperately to reduce the outrage over water charges. An announcement this week by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly (pictured) introduced a flat rate for water usage, replacing the planned consumption-based charges, at least until 2018.

The announcement was about, in the government’s words, providing “certainty and clarity” to the government’s latest attempt to extract money from the general Irish public.

Minister Kelly said water charges would be capped at 260 euro per annum, with a single person living alone paying 160 euro. As an incentive, a “rebate” of 100 euro would be issued through social welfare offices for those who sign up to the charges. The Minister has refused to say if the courts would be used to extract the charges and late fees from non-payers.

Whether this works for the government and saves it from electoral wipeout will not be known until the next general election, but the reaction has been negative so far.

Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger said that the new water charges package is “like.. trying to sell discounted goods from the back of a truck”. The Dublin West TD said that there will be mass refusal of of water bills and the government will have to listen as “we’re three bills away from a General Election”.

Coppinger’s party colleague Joe Higgins said the changes on water charges were attempt by the government to get them “past the next General Election”.

“This will not work. We have a risen people here. They want to continue to pay for their water - which they do and have done for generations - through general taxation. Their measures will still be met with a huge movement of opposition.

“People aren’t fools, people don’t believe the Government ... When the time comes and the pressure is off, the price will rise inexorably.

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty reiterated that water charges are “a red line issue” for his party and would be scrapped if they came to power.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the government’s move was a PR offensive.

“Throughout the debate on this motion over the course of yesterday and today government deputies were at pains to tell is how they have listened to the people on this issue. This is clearly not true.

“If they were listening they would know that the people are demanding that this tax is scrapped rather than capped.

“The government had built up this week’s announcement for the last number of weeks. They have engaged in a PR offensive in a desperate attempt to cling to power for the next year.

“Yet, after all the hype, here’s what we now know after this week’s debate; Water charges have not been scrapped, the water metering programme will continue, metered charges are coming in, they will only go up, and there is still no constitutional right to water.

“I don’t think the people will be fooled by this PR offensive and I am calling for the maximum possible turnout for the people’s assembly on December 10 to send the message once again that water charges must be scrapped.”

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