To: Minister Darragh O’Brien

Name the date for the referendum on the public ownership of water services. 

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Keep Water Public

Water should be provided for the public good, not for profit.
Access to safe drinking water and sanitation are internationally recognised human rights.
After years of campaigning by water services workers, government has committed to holding a referendum on the public ownership of water services.
However, it has failed to set a date. Government needs to live up to its commitments and name the date for the referendum.

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Why we need a referendum

Privatised water services result in higher costs and poorer services for the public. Public ownership of water services ensures safe and sustainable access to water for everyone. A referendum would help protect Irish water services from any future attempt at privatisation, providing a constitutional guarantee of public ownership. Opinion polls show that a huge majority of the Irish public want a referendum to ensure water services can never be privatised.
There is a high-cost to privatising basic public services. Communities end up paying more while companies make big profits. In England and Wales the cost to the public of water services is estimated to have risen by 40% in real terms since privatisation.
Over £18 billion has been paid out in dividends to private shareholders between 2010 and 2021. Governments throughout Europe are waking up to the failure privatisation. Berlin, Scotland and Paris are all making moves to bring back water services into public ownership.
The best way to keep water services public is by having it guaranteed in the constitution. That is why we need a referendum.

Water Service Workers for Public Water

Union members in water services have been fighting to keep water public for years. As part of the ‘Hands off Public Water’ campaign they protested, petitioned and balloted for strike action. Their campaign was a success.
Right now, government is legislating to make Irish Water a non- commercial, national state authority. This is a big win, but we need a final step to make sure that water services are never privatised. We need a referendum to seal the deal.
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Government's Commitment

The Programme for Government committed to “retain Irish Water in public ownership as a national, standalone, regulated utility”.
In February 2021 Minister Darragh O’Brien TD published the policy paper “Irish Water — Towards a national, publicly-owned, regulated, water services utility” following its approval at Cabinet.
This paper set out the steps needed for the “transformation of the water sector that will lead to the retention of Irish Water as a national, publicly-owned, regulated, water services utility”.
Government TDs and Ministers have repeatedly stated that a referendum on the public ownership of water services will be held. It’s time government lived up to its commitments and set a date.