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Wednesday

The Irish and Water

Shannon Estuary, County Limerick, Ireland, July 2014.
At last. The Irish people, in their tens of thousands, are standing up to their Government and its endless austerity/tax mantra/delusion.

The Irish have a deep connection with water, something that was obviously underestimated by the bean counters who spend every day thinking up crazy new tax-generating schemes. For starters, Ireland is an island and the water around us has been the key driver in our national evolution, our very psyche. From the Ice Age glaciers that carved out the landscape to the Atlantic Ocean that pounds holes in the Cliffs of Moher every day and the mighty Shannon, the biggest river in these islands, we are defined by water, fresh and salt. Our new blood (and blood-letting!) has come by water, from the Vikings to the Normans to the armies of Cromwell. St Patrick was brought over by seaborne raiders and holy water is still revered by many to this day. We call whiskey 'uisce beatha', the water of life. Water is key to our brewing tradition and we are the only country in the world where the law requires the addition of the neurotoxin fluoride to the drinking water supply. Let's not forget the rain. We get a lot of that.

The Romans called Ireland Hibernia, the land of winter. Not bad. The land of water would've been better. Aquania.

It's not just about paying twice for water, or the cronyism endemic in the creation of a new utility which will be privatised ASAP, or the imposition of endless new taxes on the Irish people by the international money overlords. It's really about the unending incompetence of the politicians who have put party political interests above the interests of the people since independence. In my opinion, the only viable solution is not a general election, but a participative, secular democracy and the dissolution of politics as we know it.

Meanwhile, the unholy mess that is Irish Water can be solved with three actions. Firstly, the Constitution needs to be changed to make clear that Ireland's natural resources, including water, will always be owned by, and used to benefit, the people. This could be done as part of a complete, crowdsourced overhaul of the Constitution which would give the Republic back to a battered and disillusioned people.

Secondly, the metering of water consumption by every household should begin immediately, but with no bills whatsover for at least a year. People should be given regular statements of how much water they've used in excess of allowances and how much their bill would be if their habits remain the same. This would give everyone the opportunity to improve their usage of water.

Finally, with a measurement of the amount of water leaving the treatment facilities and meter readings of how much water is being consumed at the far end, we will know exactly how much water is being lost along the way. Until new utility 'Irish Water' gets wastage down to less than 10% nobody should face a water bill.

Ireland's salvation will not come from Bono or Bob Geldof, who hold little sway with the people, or even Russell Brand, who does actually appear to walk the walk. The hope for a better, fairer future can only come from within, from the population as a whole, through mass participation in the decisionmaking process, a process which has been an utter failure to date.

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