A few weeks ago, I joined the audience of Claire Byrne Live in RTÉ with a few of my friends. When I got the email informing me that water charges was one of the topics up for discussion, I immediately rolled my eyes and thought, “here we go again”.
For some weeks, the election took over the Irish media and water charges were (almost) forgotten about. Now that GE16 is over and the politicians are arguing amongst themselves about who is going to take charge of the country, people are complaining about water again. We Irish are great at whinging.
There are people who paid their water bills and continue to do so, people who paid initially but have since changed their minds and want their money back, and there are people who have continually refused to pay.
Some are saying we have the lowest charge for water in Europe, while others are saying the opposite. Some people blame the government, and others are blaming Irish Water.
It seems like nobody has a clue what is going on, and we are all just jumping on whatever bandwagon we see fit.
In 2014, everyone suddenly became obsessed with water. So much so that there were protests about it all around the country.
When water charges were first mentioned, there was absolute mayhem. People stressed about having to give away more of their precious money, and we students wondered if we were going to have to start paying for a glass of water in pubs.
No matter how much of it is around us, water is actually a luxury. There are people in the world who have to walk long distances just to get a little drop of water, which can be filthy. Yet we are complaining about a charge on the clean water we have such easy access to.
Of course there are places around the country where the water isn’t as clean as it should be. But where do we expect to get the money from, to improve that water?
Now obviously Irish Water was a bit of a disaster, there’s no denying that. But it’s a work in progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
A better idea may have been to introduce a fixed rate for each household, or to create a tax that will incorporate a number of things: water, refuse and sewerage, for example. But the way the government introduced water charges was just unstable and messy.
Yes, it may be easy for me to say all of this because I am still a student and have never had to pay for water. But I still don’t think water should be free. We’re not the only country in the world that decided water should be paid for.
I think it is about time to stop giving out about the water tax and just accept that it can no longer be free. The tampon tax in the UK, however, is one to complain about.
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