1. If you are not connected to a public system – water in or sewage out – then “Irish Water” has nothing to do with you. I, along with dozens of other councillors of all stripes, heard this confirmed by a speaker at a councillor training session recently. Private individual & group systems have nothing to do with “Irish Water”. Consequently, I fail to see any obligation for anyone who receives these forms from “Irish Water” in this category to return or acknowledge such letters. Unless you are kindly disposed to helping them compile a superfluous, detailed database of non-customers. I can’t imagine what use anyone would have for that, can you? (Why are you getting the letter so? I guess they just bought mailing lists – and have no idea who is actually on the public system.)
2. If you are connected to a public system – water in, or sewage out – your legal situation is different (sorry). That they don’t have a database yet, doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have ways of finding out later (or sooner); it also doesn’t mean you are invulnerable to some kind of legal or financial sanction (consider the Property Registration, then Taxation schemes);
3. If you have concerns about their asking for your family’s PPS numbers, so do I. Right now, we are trying to get a very solid legal opinion on the total legality of this – I’m sorry I cannot give you a definitive answer right now. A key concept to understand is this, however: certain allowances are made for households with children, etc.; if you do not declare and identify them in a manner that “Irish Water” considers acceptible (PPS numbers), you may not get those allowances unless the entire system is changed. That is unlikely to happen without a considerable change in government. You must understand, that although it may be an ethically and philosophically valid position to not declare your PPS numbers, the current legal situation may still favour “Irish Water” – and this can result in real costs to you in terms of the loss of allowances. You must weigh up what you are willing to bear.
A suggestion to those for which such costs would be overly burdesome (or just anyone who has concerns) – write a polite, formal letter to the Director for Energy Retail and Water, at the Commission for Energy Regulation, The Exchange, Belgard Square North, Tallaght, Dublin 24, and ask for written clarification and confirmation of the following:
A. What, specifically, will the PPS Numbers be used for in the Irish Water query?
B. Can it be confirmed that this, specific, purpose will be the only use for these numbers after you have given them?
4. For people whose meters e.g. are on private rather than public property for some reason, or meters that may for some other reason access to “Irish Water” may be (legally) restricted: understand that they may still charge you “assessed” rates. This may (almost certainly “will”) be more than you would otherwise pay.
5. For those who understand all the above, but still wish to pursue a policy of civil disobedience: understand that currently, the law as made by our present government seems to be against you – that means that agents of the State cannot be expected to take your side, or to treat you with the solidarity you might morally expect; understand that there may not only be financial costs resulting from assessment/loss of allowances, but also real penalties ranging from fines to judicial sanctions. Understand also, that there are frequently people and groups in these situations, who give out faulty or just plain false information that are deceptively, emotionally satisfying; and also there are those who lack the two fundamentals necessary for collective protest (self-discipline and collective organisation) – that will walk off when everyone else lands in trouble; these kinds of people are not your friends, and when what they are telling you seems too good to be true, it usually is – at your cost.
6. Please understand, that for all these reasons we urge you to make a fully-informed decision, but we cannot simply urge people to refuse to register or pay, or to disrupt metering, regardless of their situation – precisely because the effect on individual household circumstances is so different, and could impact so negatively. Sinn Féin, and I, will continue to advocate for the citizen – as opposed to the institution and the State – in these particular circumstances (including those of ethically cogent, disciplined protest).
The State and its institutions must first serve the Citizen – not the other way around. The process of plutonomic privatisation – such as with the creation of “Irish Water” – doesn’t primarily serve the Citizen.
If you agree with this, do join us in Wexford Town Bullring this Saturday, 2-4pm, at our “Abolish the Water Tax” stall.