Irish Water was established by the national government to provide water services within the Republic of Ireland. Previously local authorities provided this service, and their remit was transferred to the new entity of Irish Water. As Irish Water was established, the government also instituted water charges, which has been very controversial.
The government policy to set up Irish Water has been challenged by the public through protests and resistance. The protests have focused mostly on the new water charges. People have resisted signing up with Irish Water too. Part of their argument was that the government should continue to manage the water supply directly instead of transferring ownership to the semi-state body Irish Water. These protests proved successful as the Water Services Act 2017 passed through the Dáil and Seanad and approved refunds for all customers who had initially paid water charges.
The Irish government started charging for water in response to the EU Water Framework Directive. As a Member State of the European Union, the Irish Government is obligated to implement EU Directives. If a member state fails to implement directives, they can be subjected to economic sanctions. In this case, the level of charges has been amended in response to public resistance.
Irish Water remains a controversial organisation, with politicians caught between public dislike of the setup and operation of the organisation, and EU regulations compelling us to implement water conservation measures.
This case study shows how governance challenges may affect us in our daily lives. The privatization of public services and the new water charges has been controversial – this reflects how governments may be required to adopt policies that are not supported by their citizens.
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