Over 100 people at meeting against the septic tank charges in Ballinaboola

Over 100 people attended a public meeting against the septic tank charge in the Horse and Hound, Ballinaboola last Wednesday night (15th).  The meeting was called by Wexford Sinn Féin and organised by local farmer Oisín O’Connell.  The meeting was chaired by Mr O’Connell with the other main speakers being South East Senator David Cullinane, Cllr Anthony Kelly and Cllr Johnny Mythen.


“Let’s start by saying what we’re not against: the social and environmental necessity of clean water,” Mr O’Connell said.

“Government spokespeople will be quick to blame the EU directive for the introduction of this charge.  This particular directive dates back to 1975.  The directive can be seen as an alarm clock, warning us that we are in breach of environmental laws.  The question is not why has the alarm gone off, but rather why have successive Irish governments hit the ‘snooze’ button?”

“It’s not true that the scheme has to be implemented the way the government is doing it – Scotland, the North of Ireland, and even Cavan all have different ways of dealing with this. They are not getting fined. What is happening is that we – 440,000 rural families – are bailing out successive governments’ abdication of duty. They should be providing a framework of collective action. For upgrading what is actually part of our national infrastructure, that provides a public good. A framework for supporting, rather than punishing people who provide it.”

Later he added:

“When I was on the radio with Deputy Liam Twomey, the Fine Gael TD said that in his opinion only about ten percent of tanks would need to be upgraded.  I pointed out that there wasn’t much point in the people putting their faith in ‘ifs’, ‘maybes’ and ‘probably’ – particularly when the only known quantity is the law giving fines of up to €5000 for non-compliance. And this before revealing any details of standards or grants available.”

Senator David Cullinane said:

“It’s an absolute disgrace that the Minister has refused to make the standards that tanks will be judged by available to the public.  They do not know what will be expected or whether they will get any support from the state for remediation of tanks.  People living in cities and towns do not have to pay for remediation of water mains other than through their taxes. Why should people in rural areas pay for the remediation of their septic tanks when they pay the same taxes?”

“When I raised this issue of discrimination against rural dwellers with government reps they said not to worry, water charges are on the way and that would lead to people in more urban areas paying similar new taxes to the septic tank charge.  They said you’ll have your equality then.”

“People have to take a stand.  I can’t tell anyone not to pay these taxes – people must make up their own minds.  Draconian fines have been tabled and it’s likely that people who do not pay will face the full wrath of this government.  Everyone must make up their own mind as I have made up mine: I will not pay the household charge and I will not register for the septic tank tax until the Minister stops this dangerous game he is playing and reveals the full details of standards and grants involved in this act.”

Cllr Johnny Mythen said:

“The government is accusing Sinn Féin of scaremongering.  Who are the real scare merchants? Who have become the masters of shock and awe? The Government railroaded the water services bill through the Dail, stating that it had to be passed by the third of February or Ireland would be fined €26,000 a day.  However the European Commission has since confirmed that this was not the case.”

“This septic tank charge is an attack on rural Ireland, adding to the many others, like the loss of our rural post offices, garda stations, deis schools, fuel allowances, CE schemes and above all, the decimation of our parishes by forced emigration.”

“This Act is flawed.  It’s flawed because it places the entire cost on the hands of the septic tank holder.  It’s flawed because it does not contain a sufficient certainty of terms, regarding the standards required.  It’s flawed because it was guillotined through the Dail.  Its flawed because it is an unbalanced tax directed at the rural communities of Ireland.”

Cllr Anthony Kelly said:

“The government needs to stop playing mind games with the people of Ireland.  Dropping the registration fee to five euro is fooling no one.  The registration fee, regardless of cost, is not the biggest concern for families. The key issue is the standard against which their tanks will be assessed and the cost of upgrading.  For Fine Gael TDs to state that no one will have any problem paying this tax now that the registration fee has been reduced is not only highly misleading but utterly insulting to the four hundred and forty thousand rural dwellers living in fear of this charge.”

“The Water Services Act has given dangerously draconian powers to inspectors to come onto people’s property without their consent.  Inspectors will have the right to come on and start digging up your garden and then go away and not come back for three or four weeks.  People will not stand for this.”

When asked by a member of the audience what he would do if an inspector came onto his property, Cllr Kelly said he would meet them and would make sure that his local Fine Gael or Labour representative was called.  “These are the people with the controlling majority in our Dail, the people who are passing these outrageous laws.  Its time all of them, TDs, Senators and local councillors were asked clearly, whose side are you on?

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