The protest against water charges remains the national news topic of the week here. If I have to hear the phrase ‘access to clean water is a basic human right’ one more time, I will throw something at the radio. Is this an internationally accepted principle that I’ve missed? How could everyone in the world have access to as much water as they want for free? Who exactly would pay to harvest, clean, and distribute the water that falls from the sky?
I understand there are issues around the possible privatization of the newly formed water company and future price increases as well as the in ability to accurately gauge water use while the pipes are in such disarray but I can not understand the level of protest and outrage over this one relatively reasonable tax. The water infrastructure is inadequate, outdated, inefficient, poorly managed and going to cost a fortune to upgrade to modern standard (this description applies to every public service or infrastructure in Ireland). When we lived in Galway you regularly couldn’t use the tap water because of cryptosporidium contamination and there are villages in Galway county that haven’t been able to use their water for since this time back in 2005!
Tax payers do pay a high level of general national taxes here that are unaccounted for since the local government does not have control over most local budgets or service plans and the argument that we all ready pay taxes that should cover water here are valid. The same principle applies to education though and no one is outraged when you have to pay for the school bus, books or make regular ‘voluntary contributions’ in some schools. No one is protesting over the clear double taxation of car owners through a VAT and VRT plus then the annual motor tax. Cars are super expensive here because the price includes the standard VAT you pay on all goods and services than an additional Vehicle Registration Tax, collected just for registering the car and it is based on the value of the car. You then have to pay a motor tax every year (also based on the value and emissions and is well over €500 for most cars) each year which supposedly goes towards maintaining and upgrading the road network but is again lost to a central pot. For anyone that’s ever visited Ireland, it’s pretty obvious there’s not a lot of this money spent in rural Ireland.
In my unpopular opinion the water issue has ignited outrage because it was the only tax or charge that was going to be collected universally and by usage. Everyone was going to have to pay for the services they use – not just the tax payers for a change. The politicians behind the outrage and protests represent non-tax payer constituents.
I am curious what readers from other countries think about this debate around paying for water – should your general income or state/local taxes cover this or should it be charged as a service?
The local news is simple – CHRISTMAS!
If you like Christmas, move to Ireland. If you don’t really like Christmas than stay away for the month of December and first week of January. Consider yourself warned – if you live here you are in danger of buying snowman jumpers and wearing Santa hats in November or attending the Twelve Days of Christmas pub crawls on the 20th and then heading out for ‘Women’s Christmas’ dinner and drinks on the 6th of January. There is no “Happy Holidays” here nor holiday celebrations in school. The schools are in the majority all still run by the Catholic Church despite being funded by the Department of Education and hence they are Catholic schools. Baby Jesus is alive and well in Castlegregory National School. The local shop hosted Santa last Thursday evening and I think every child under ten (and a few over) from the school was there qued up to sit on his lap. We arrived early and the que was already stretching past the frozen pizza. When we left 45 minutes later it had moved back to the butcher counter. There are families that go see Santa 2,3, and 4 times in various establishments around the county.
For those much cooler people the big news in the county last weekend was the Other Voices musical gathering in Dingle this past weekend. The tickets are like hen’s teeth and can only be won now or bribed off crew. Check out the link and music on spotify –http://www.othervoices.ie/
The big news in our house was a 5th birthday party in the house that went miraculously smoothly – no blood, no vomit and very few tears. Despite one boy muttering ‘I might punch you in the hole’ in response to my husband’s threat that if he didn’t sit down for a minute and eat something he might not get cake, it was pretty tame. I couldn’t help laughing at my husband’s insistence that this boy hadn’t eaten in the midst of thirteen 5 year-olds lurching full-speed around the house blowing party horns. I do not think proper sustenance is the responsibility of the birthday party host.