Dáil debates

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla — Topical Issue Debate

Water Supply

9:40 am

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I again thank the Deputies for their comments. I appreciate their ongoing worries about the serious incidents that occurred in the water treatment plant at Gorey and in Dublin. The safety and security of our water supply, as the Deputies have said, is paramount. There is a need to rebuild any trust that has been lost. I give the assurance that tap water is safe to drink in both situations.

One of the first initiatives that the Minister advanced on taking office was to develop a Government policy paper on the steps required to transform Irish Water into a proper, unified national public utility. This paper was progressed precisely because of the type of issues that emerged in the wake of the Leixlip incident in late 2019. The policy paper stated that despite owning the assets and paying for service delivery through service-level agreements with local authorities, Irish Water did not have direct control over the majority of service staff or assets. It also indicated that the separation between responsibility and control needed to be addressed as a priority. The paper made it clear that while the current working arrangement with local authorities had worked effectively to get Irish Water up and running, the limitations of this way of working was beginning to impact on service delivery and were increasingly seen as adding to the risk of service failure, as we have seen in these incidents.

A process is under way with the WRC to deliver the transformation of this service. The Minister has also requested that Irish Water and local authorities take further steps to improve Irish Water’s control of all water service plants in the immediate term, pending the implementation of the agreed long-term operation and staffing arrangements. I again assure the House that the report will be published in a timely manner.

I disagree with the contention that there is no accountability. There is accountability. That is what the Minister will ensure will happen with the local authorities concerned. As all the Deputies said, this is about restoring confidence. That can only be done through collaboration and through ensuring that we move towards a single utility to ensure that we have clean, safe drinking water as a human right for everyone in this country.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.