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The Government (The Privatisers) V The People – Ireland and The Water Meter Revolution


10690274_362706583906440_72108541568392573_n 10713007_915925058435787_4009882317525743229_n The people of Ireland are fighting back against what is deemed a step too far in terms of governmental austerity measures within the country. The Irish Government until recently paid for the treatment and servicing of water within the state, however this is changing. The government is privatising this branch in an attempt to “save” €1bn per year as part of conditions set by Brussels. The main political parties of the state could find themselves out in the cold when it comes to the general election scheduled for 2016. So the feeling is yes the Government has bitten off more than it can chew. In the UK water rates have been established for some time and the commodity of water has always and always should be free to all. The Irish feel they are being asked way too much in order to put right the banker’s problem. The world media are watching with great interest, however very rarely reported by media sources within the state, bringing displeasure that the peoples media is serving the interest of the privatisers and not the people. In many areas of Ireland and some where I go myself, where family live, the water is undrinkable which begs to question why on earth are the people being charged for a service they don’t receive? Even more criminal is the fact that since 1997 the people of Ireland already pay a subsidence for water. Many see that those in government are receiving back handers to drive this hugely despised policy through from the top with the Taoiseach to the backbencher TD’s (MPs to me and you in the UK) The Irish Government (Fine Gael- Labour Coalition) has set out that each household in Ireland is required by law to host a water meter. The water meters have been met with much resistance in the streets and estates right across the state. The people have had enough of austerity and feel that the government regardless of any of the main parties no longer represent them. This leading the path to new openings within the political party system normally seeing fine Gael or Fianna Fail elected, to the likes of others, such as the increasing number of Sinn Fein representatives for example being elected. There is the more interesting point seeing a 2% duty imposed on everything the Irish people purchase and a 5% vehicle duty which would ensure NO FURTHER CHARGES were applicable. Thus a sign of the government charging twice for the same service but also the fact it is going against itself in a short term period. water Joan Burton Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister- Labour) has been slated after comments she made “All of those protesters I have seen before seem to have extremely expensive phones, tablets , video cameras” and “Hollywood would be in the ha’penny place to what’s been done here”.  To the response of the electorate tweeting or facebooking back reminding her who pays for her expensive phones and how out of touch she is. Some have even started a countdown until she is “booted” out of office. Her ministerial car was stuck for a number of hours by peaceful protesters surrounding her car. (http://www.thejournal.ie/joan-burton-water-protest-1782187-Nov2014/ ) A Fine Gael Councillor has met trolling after making the comments, Laura McGonigle A Councillor in the city of Cork tweeted “They should collect all the rain water while out marching today and drink that for the week” ‘they’ meaning the protesters.( http://www.thejournal.ie/fine-gael-councillor-facebook-rainwater-1759765-Nov2014/ ) There have been a number of protests in all major town and cities with tens of thousands marching the streets in each one, including one in Dublin which saw a hefty 50,000 people marching a number of weeks ago. There is a national protest day which will see numbers into the hundreds of thousands surround Dail Eireann on 10th December under the banner “Right2Water”. ( https://www.facebook.com/Right2WaterIreland?fref=ts ) The workers installing the apparatus have been met with much resistance and barricades to stop them from entering areas. The police have been brought in and there is now many a video posted on Youtube and the like showing the brutality the police are using in order to support and maintain the work to install the meters. It is noted by a number of sources that the police are receiving bonuses or seeing their budgets protected while other departments are seeing savage cuts. To put this into perspective the Irish people have to pay to see their doctor (GP), for school books of all kinds, and cost of living is close to a third higher than that in the UK due to the Euro. The Welfare system is close to being annihilated. The TD’s receive much more expenses and noted corruption within the political system than that perceived within the UK. The Taoiseach questionably receives more than most heads of state in the world at €200,000(£159,836), even more than David Cameron (£142,000). Cameron who is the head of state of a country with 10 times the population of Ireland and a more powerful world player than that of the Irish Taoiseach. However, this is only one of many ways the people have been protesting, many have been destroying the apparatus costing just over £100per house to install. Some have been taken by “fairies” (http://www.thejournal.ie/water-meter-fairies-illegal-irish-1773631-Nov2014/ ). Some have been picked up (some being flung over Dail Eireann’s walls) others have been sunk in cement making them unworkable. There is mass resistance on this topic and will test the nerve of the coalition as it enters its final year before the general election. The fact remains that the government has very much bitten more than it can chew,  the closing question is how far will both sides go until the other backs down.

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Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Wales) Regulations 2010- The Welsh 5p Bag Tax


As of 1st October, shoppers in Wales will have to pay a minimum of 5p per carrier bag they use, in an attempt by the Welsh Government to dramatically cut down on the excessive number of bags used in Wales each year. The legislation forces retailers in Wales to keep a record the number of bags they issue, and accounting where proceeds from the carrier charge are used. There is mixed support at this time addressing the introduction of the charge and will be hard to foresee how it will be perceived by the public in Wales.

The types of bags included within the legislation are as follows:

  • Plastic
  • Paper-e.g. Fast Food Restaurant paper bags etc
  • Part Plastic
  • Recycled
  • Degradable plastic – (due to the confusion over which locations do degradable over those who don’t, they too will be subjected to the charge). -Welsh Government

The Environment Minister (John Griffiths AM) comments following his decision:

  • “Last year in Wales we took home on average 273 carrier bags per household from the major supermarkets alone, and this figure does not even account for the number of bags we pick up when shopping on the high street or at smaller stores.”
  • “Most of these bags are completely unnecessary. They end up cluttering up our cupboards, littering our country or sitting in landfill sites where they take between 500 and 1000 years to degrade.”
  • “The carrier bag charge is all about helping us to cut down on the number of carrier bags we use. It is a policy that has been welcomed by people across Wales and really is good news for our country”

Wales is the first nation within the UK to pass legislation introducing a levy on single use carrier bags. There had been attempts in Scotland a few years back but lacked (Scottish) parliamentary support to take it any further.

  • John Griffiths -“I am proud that we in Wales are taking the lead in the UK in introducing a charge. This will ensure that people are thinking, and talking, about the problem of single use carrier bags. They are a waste of resources, a problem as litter and a symbol of the throwaway society.”

The fact that Wales has introduced another first can provide a positive feeling that the  National Assembly, and its government are leading the way on a variety of issues. Others deem it to be, yet another guinea pig experiment before the rest of the UK considers the matter further.

Neighbours in the Irish Republic have already seen a levy placed on single use carrier bags for just under a decade, Ireland reported a 94% drop in the use of the plastic bags as a result of the levy which saw a 33€c charge (30p equivalent in the UK) in just two weeks after it was introduced. So the question to be seen is will the successes seen by our neighbours in Ireland be mirrored here in Wales? It at this present day remains to be seen and only strong guesses can be made. The Government believe that according to current day behaviour it would see an approximate £2.6 million being raised and should go to the charities/ local environmental groups.

The issue surrounding the actual charge had to been raised in Ireland too, but had been rebutted with the argument that it still provides choice while making people think about and change their behaviour/habits.  The legislation in regards to Wales does not go into depth over where peoples 5p“tax” will go, other than it is up to the individual retailer, but they state that the government hopes the retailers will donate the money to charity or local environmental groups, but remains a voluntary option rather than a compulsory one.  This part of the legislation had seen the most negativity, due to the fact it arguably allows yet another opportunity for retailers to “line their pockets”. The Government argues that public pressure would and could ensure otherwise, they will also create a voluntary code of practise by which retailers could follow.

There are a number of exemptions to the levy as it is deemed by the Government to apply the charge in certain circumstances.

Types of bag exempt from the charge include

  • Food items that are unwrapped – loose fruit and vegetables, bread, pick and mix sweets etc.
  • Live aquatic creatures in water – fish, coral, crabs etc.
  • Unpackaged blades – axe, knife blade or razor blade.
  • Loose seeds and bulbs.
  • Packaged uncooked fish or meat.
  • Bags on board ships, trains, aircraft, coaches or buses.
  • Medical exceptions – Prescriptions and other medicines from behind the counter

Small businesses employing less than 10 people will be except from noting how many bags were distributed.

The Environment  Minister  further hoped people across Wales attempt to avoid the carrier bag charge altogether:

  • “The idea of the charge is not to make people pay for carrier bags. Rather it is to encourage shoppers to make use of the bags they already have.
  • “We can all avoid the charge by remembering to carry reusable bags when we do our shopping.”
  • “We know that reducing our use of carrier bags is not going to solve all our environmental problems, but the charge does deliver an important message about the need for us to live much more sustainable lives.”

The level of the carrier bag charge has been set at 5p because the Welsh Government believes this is high enough to encourage people to change their shopping habits but not so high that it will deter impulse shopping or place a significant burden on shoppers who have forgotten their reusable bags.

“Recently, figures were published showing that the people of Wales had reduced their carrier bag use by 7% over the last year. I am confident that the charge will help us further drive down carrier bag use and I hope next year’s figures will show another reduction.”

The Government has been blamed for bad communication, in respect that many retailers are still confused where they fit in to the charge. Some believe they are exempt from the charge as they employ less than 10 people but this is not the case, they merely just do not have to maintain a record of the number of bags given out. With less than a month until the legislation kicks in, the government needs to radicalise their message a lot better, they do have a website but the knowledge or knowledge of how to get onto it is slim.

There will be a 3 month “teething stage” granted to retailers to provide time to implement their action plan as well as understanding the legislation. After the 3 months, failure to comply will mean the retailer/provider faces a £5000 fine, and in which the money goes back into the public pot to fund the various public services. Many retailers have already suggested, they will swallow up the charge if possible due to the feeling of embarrassment of trying to communicate the issue, more specifically to tourists who they argue would feel that Welsh shops are stingy.

Some individuals argue that it is a “stupid” or “unnecessary” charge on individuals on such a “small issue”. They believe attention should be instead focused on combating companies and the excessive packaging they create for their products. Others have stated they would rather cross the border than face the 5p per bag charge, ironic as it would probably cost at least £6 in fuel to do so. Its, this such mind frame, that the charge is attempting to persuade to think again. The fact there is obvious differences between how the charges operate, and will operate in the two countries (Wales and Ireland). Wales are charging considerably less at 5p per bag and Ireland first introduced the rate at 33€c (about 30p) , also in Ireland the levy had no affinity to the economy as there is no plastic bag production.

Overall as said there is still confusion over how the legislation will affect businesses in Wales, however there is hope by October 1st, any issues should have been addressed. The perception/ support remains unclear by the public at large with many stating they would shop in England rather than pay a 5p charge (bit ironic when it would cost more in fuel to cross the border in most cases). However the legislation as a whole is a positive step addressing an interesting environmental issue, the government will monitor how the legislation is implemented and further address the issue of waste as a whole over the next few years.

For more info – please look at http://www.carrierbagchargewales.gov.uk/?lang=en for both personal and business information

Ireland’s Chance of Green Gold


In the most Recent meeting of the British-Irish Council, attended by UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and other senior members of the devolved governments met and discussed the issue of clean/green energy.

The Geographical location of the island of Ireland can prove to be a natural money spinner and one the country desperately needs to address it’s national debt. The location of Ireland, more specifically the west coast is normally fairly windy and would be an ideal location to place wind turbines/wind farm. You may ask, why is this relevant to the meeting?  Well due to the size v demand it is too expensive for the Irish government/ energy companies to build any large scale green energy projects, thus the idea that the UK and other European countries could possibly purchase green energy created in the country. There is also talks on a possible wave/ tide energy network which could also back up the demand for green energy and meeting targets set by the EU. Charles Hendry (UK Energy Secretary) noted to state that “The west coast of Ireland has some of the fiercest winds in Europe,”  followed by “They whip in off the Atlantic which makes it is an ideal location for wind farms. However, the Irish market for electricity is less than a tenth of that of Britain. That means that companies cannot afford to build wind farms in Ireland because there is no market for their power. We want to put that right.”

This would be a huge help to the UK’s current green energy targets and where the government tends to encounter much opposition from NIMBYs. The argument against building the wind farms in the west coast of Ireland would be peoples opposition due to the feeling it would destroy some of the most beautiful locations in Ireland. Already work is underway to connect the energy grids to both islands of the British Isles thus working co-operatively for better energy security amongst the two. The Irish Sea Inter-Connector will cost £500m and have a capacity of 500 megawatts. There would also be other potential connections thus allowing the opening up the new market for green energy being produced from the said eco friendly sources.

The areas suggested best suited for such a project are the Dingle Peninsula, Kerry and Galway coastal areas. Hendry responded to a question raising the issues argued by any potential opposition to the idea by stating  . “It will be up to the Irish government and the Irish people to decide if they want to build them. This is a voluntary programme and it could bring significant wealth to the country with very little downside.”

The other Areas suggested on mainland UK have been the islands of Islay and Orkney as promising sites for tidal energy creation areas. However, all sites suffer from the problem of remoteness which has also been addressed at the council meeting.

When discussing the possibility of the English channel being another area of green energy production, Hendry notes  “Some of the best resources for generating tidal power lie in waters off the Channel Islands,” Followed by the caution  “But as things stand at present, there is no way to get that power to mainland Britain. We need to look at building a new inter-connector with France, taking it from the new nuclear power station currently being built at Flamanville, via the Channel Islands, to the UK. When the tides are right at Jersey and Guernsey, we could take electricity from their wave generators, and when they are not providing power, take it from Flamanville.” All named proposals will now be considered and evaluated over the next 18 months, whereby any agreed projects could effectively start construction from around 2013.

All in all, this could prove to be an interest venture should the Irish Government agree to their part of any proposal. It can also prove to be financially rewarding for them which as already stated at the beginning is much needed cash to put into the national purse and helping them lessen the huge national debt. The proposals are ambitious but we shall see what action is actually undertaken over the next year and a half and onwards. If Britain does succeed by giving a go ahead to some if not all of the projects it would still see its green credentials rise and meet our European counterparts, which at this moment the UK is dragging a bit behind.

The Irish Government faces challenging times


Enda Kenny, of Fine Gael, formed a coalition government with the Irish Labour Party, after a landslide victory in February against the Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition. The Labour Party had managed to achieve an historic second place in the election, the first in the Republic’s history where the second party had not been either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, while the other was in government. Fianna Fáil had been pushed into third place losing 51 seats and winning only 20 which was close to the 14 seats won by Sinn Fein, while the Green Party lost all seats they had held (6).

The main reason for the lack of faith with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party was the dire economic situation that the Irish Republic faces even today whereby its governmental debt was 94.2% of its GDP. The previous government had, like many other countries, bought into their banks using tax payer money in an attempt to avoid total collapse of the Bank of Ireland. The other reason for lack of faith was due to the fact that the Fianna Fáil led coalition had not saved any money during the Celtic tiger boom years of the early millennium. Thus leaving the country to face dramatic austerity measures, while stalling to accept an economic bailout by the other members of the EU (including £7 billion from the UK).

Enda Kenny as Taoiseach has stated that he aims to renegotiate the interest rates applied to their bailout, where as noticeably seen many members in the EU are reluctant to do so. Thus this is one area in where it can prove to be one of the defining points of this government, in what is the Irish Republic’s darkest hour. It will also be interesting to watch how this government will support small and medium sized businesses and how it deals with the diabolical unemployment level.

Cuts must still take place but it is where the new government prioritises its cuts that will show whether they can be the government of leadership rather than the failure like that of the one before it. The Irish people have already seen their fair share of cuts and many are ensuring their anger is heard by attending protests directed at the Fianna Fáil coalition. The main complaint being the ever rising price of food and living costs, yet cutting down the limit of the minimum wage.

To be successful the Irish Republic under this new government’s leadership needs to continue appealing to American businesses to settle in the Shannon region (West Ireland), while continuing to promote itself to the world as a place where people should consider taking breaks/holidays; tourism being one of the main industries on the island. Enda Kenny also will need to ensure that the population don’t suffer more than their fair share of the cuts and to provide support to those who are suffering the worst. The renegotiating bailout interest costs, if successful, will also aid Ireland in its attempt to stabilise itself. As Enda Kenny stated on the annual Taoiseach trip to the White House (St Patrick’s Day) “Ireland remains and continues to remain open”. Only time will tell as to whether the new Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition under the leadership of Enda Kenny can prove to be successful or be a failure like its predecessor.

Categories: Irish Politics