Michael Noonan 'Water Charges Required Under European Law' Is A Lie

James Quigley writing in Buncrana Together, a piece challenging Michael Noonan's narrative on the Irish water controversy.

Former Fine Gael finance minister Michael Noonan's comments made to RTE on March 07, 2016, have been exposed as lies by Kathy Sinnott.

Ms Sinnott was a member of the European Parliament from 2006 to 2009 and has written extensively on the Water Framework Directive and the River Basin Management Plan, with particular reference to Ireland's derogation (exemption) to the Water Framework Directive, 2000/60/EC .

Mr Noonan said on RTE News, Mon March 07, that "Under European law, Ireland was obliged to charge consumers for water. There was a derogation up to 2010 where Ireland wasn't obliged to charge for water, but the derogation was ended by the Fianna Fáil-Green government, so legally now under European law water must be charged for in Ireland."

Kathy Sinnott - Mr Noonan is incorrect.

Kathy Sinnott Independent MEP 2004-2009

Ms Sinnott said:

Mr Noonan is incorrect. Our derogation is included in the first Irish River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) 2008-2015. This was supposed to be a 7 year plan but Ireland is behind schedule. The next Irish River Basin Management Plan was supposed to come out this year for the period of 2016-2021, however, there is a delay and it may not come out until 2017.

Ms Sinnott said that "as long as we are functioning under the first plan that was put in place when I was an MEP, then we have a derogation, the so called Irish Exemption". She believed that

Alan Kelly may have put water charging in the second River Basin Management Plan for 2016-2021. However, if this new plan is not activated then we are still functioning under the 2008 plan.

Michael Noonan is misinformed or maybe lying when he says our derogation ended in 2010. It could be he is getting mixed up between the Water Framework Directive and the River Basin Management Plan. A mix up that is quite easy to make for ordinary folk but for a minister, well, that is another matter.

Ms Sinnot said that" the EU was functioning at that time under the 2008 plan and would have continued for at least the next 7 years. When I was checking it out I spoke to an official In the European Commission in the section that deals with the European Water Framework Directive which the River Basin Management Plan comes under. I was informed that we still had the derogation. The official assured me that the EU could not take the derogation away from us and that the only way we could loose it was for Ireland to give it up voluntarily."

The official told Ms Sinnott that the then Minister for Environment, Alan Kelly was going to get rid of the derogation. However, any detail of the new plan has not been made public. Whether it will be passed remains to be seen especially in light of developments in relation to the issues around Irish Water and water charging.

See full details of Kathy Sinnott's “The Irish Exemption” in Attack The Tax

Nessa Childers querying Alan Kelly's new River Basin Management Plan 2016-2021
Nessa Childers MEP Incumbent

Buncrana Together contacted Ms Nessa Childers, MEP Dublin, who has written extensively on the Water Framework Directive, Childers Welcomes Clarification from European Commission Re Water Charges and European Law.

Bronwen Maher on behalf of Ms Childers said that:
the 2016-2021 River Basin Management Plan was submitted by the Irish Government last year and included water charges (the Government thereby opting out of the non domestic charge clause in the Water Framework Directive). I suspect as the last Government has submitted the next RBMP that it cannot be withdrawn but we will table a question with the Commission to seek clarification on this issue. Please note that it can take up to four weeks, if not longer, for an answer to be returned to an MEP.

Ms Childers in the above article, December 2015, welcomed clarification from the European Commission that member states, including Ireland, do not have to apply individualised domestic water charges to comply with the Water Framework Directive.

She said:

Each EU member state is obliged to draw up plans under this directive to show how water sources are protected from pollution, and how the cost of water services is carefully priced, including domestic usage. It is an extremely good piece of European environmental legislation – and we have much work to do to improve water quality in Ireland. However I am perplexed about reports that Ireland will formally submit a plan to include domestic water charges under our EU Water Framework Directive. I strongly recommend that we reserve the option to design our water services funding to suit our needs in Ireland.

Interestingly the article gives a response to Ms Childers questions to the Commission, Dec 05, 2015 where Mr Vella on behalf of the Commission stated
The responsibility for implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) lies with the Member States and there is no obligation to follow particular schemes or methods. However, methodologies for calculation of cost recovery of water services do exist and are being developed further. For example there is work under way within the Common Implementation Strategy for the WFD implementation on further guidance on assessment of environmental and resource costs.

There is no specific requirement in Art 9 of the WFD for cost recovery to rely on individual consumption. However, for the Commission, an adequate implementation of the principle of incentive water pricing included in the provisions of Art 9, as well as of the more general polluter-pays principle embedded in the Treaties, requires a clear link between water tariffs and actual individual water consumption. In this context, water metering seems to be a basic precondition for proper implementation of the WFD.

Make of that what you will. Notice the word 'seem' in the last sentence. It seems to be in the interpretation.

Fliuch Off Irish Water Ltd - zones in on article 9 of Water Framework Directive

Fliuch Off Irish Water Ltd, a Cork City based anti Irish Water organisation stated that:

Irish people have paid for their water infrastructure over the years via income tax – this was the understanding that Irish people had – now we are being fed the lie that we must be like our EU neighbours and pay for our water – while €11 billion of water infrastructure is given to Irish Water gratis.

What Irish media and government politicians fail to point out is that most other EU citizens get a far higher quality of public services – i.e. a bigger bang for their buck. You simply cannot compare the current system in Ireland to any other EU country – it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Noel from Fliuch Off directed our attention to Article 9 of the Water Framework Directive and emphasising the complete article pointed out clause 4 and in particular phrase *established practice*. He said "what they've done now is tried to say that direct domestic charges are now and 'established practice'. This is patently untrue.

Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC

Read full text, in particular Ariticle 9 of the Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy

Article 9

Recovery of costs for water services

1. Member States shall take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs, having regard to the economic analysis conducted according to Annex III, and in accordance in particular with the polluter pays principle.

Member States shall ensure by 2010

that water-pricing policies provide adequate incentives for users to use water resources efficiently, and thereby contribute to the environmental objectives of this Directive,
an adequate contribution of the different water uses, disaggregated into at least industry, households and agriculture, to the recovery of the costs of water services, based on the economic analysis conducted according to Annex III and taking account of the polluter pays principle.

Member States may in so doing have regard to the social, environmental and economic effects of the recovery as well as the geographic and climatic conditions of the region or regions affected.

2. Member States shall report in the river basin management plans on the planned steps towards implementing paragraph 1 which will contribute to achieving the environmental objectives of this Directive and on the contribution made by the various water uses to the recovery of the costs of water services.

3. Nothing in this Article shall prevent the funding of particular preventive or remedial measures in order to achieve the objectives of this Directive.

4. Member States shall not be in breach of this Directive if they decide in accordance with established practices not to apply the provisions of paragraph 1, second sentence, and for that purpose the relevant provisions of paragraph 2, for a given water-use activity, where this does not compromise the purposes and the achievement of the objectives of this Directive. Member States shall report the reasons for not fully applying paragraph 1, second sentence, in the river basin management plans.

Questions the Commission must be asked

As well as Ms Childers submitting questions to the European Commission, Buncrana Together has already sent questions to Mr Enrico Brivio, spokesperson for Environment, Maritime Affair and Fisheries, European Commission. In particular this is immediate question we would like answered -

Is Ireland at present operating under the River Basin Management Plan 2008-2015?

Other questions are we have to ask is

1. Has the last Government presented a new plan?

2. When and how will it be ratified?

3. Is it possible to view the contents?

4. Has Mr Kelly implemented charging for water and if so has his submission done away with the Irish derogation as implied in the RBMP 2008-2015?

5 Last but not least can Ireland revoke Mr Kelly's plan?

The above questions must be asked by all our newly elected TDs and parties, especially those who have promised the abolition of Irish Water and Water Charges. However, they must go a lot further and question the bona fides of Mr Kelly and the former government in their handling of the Irish Water and Water Charges issue and in particular the veracity of any submission to the European Commission. We have to question Mr Alan Kelly and Mr Noonan's constant misrepresentation of fact especially in light Mr Kelly possibly not renewing the Irish derogation and his inclusion of Water Charges into the River Basin Management Plan 2016-2021.

The Pensive Quill

Buncrana Together would like to thank all the above contributors. We would like to make special mention of Anthony McIntyre editor of The Pensive Quill. He has tirelessly championed truth and justice. His constant and recent Facebook and twitter posts kept to the fore the question of the Water Framework Directive. See TPQ article EU Say Ireland’s Domestic Water Charge Exemption Is Safe, Unless Alan Kelly Gives It Away On January 1st

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