Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Time to return NI Water to public ownership

Over the Christmas period, the severe weather brought misery to thousands.

This was compounded by the abject failure of Northern Ireland Water - a semi-privatised, 'arms-length' Government quango - to adequately respond to the crisis.

The minister responsible for NI Water is Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy and he has instituted an investigation into what went wrong and who was responsible. While we await those findings, it is worth examining the legacy of neglect and underinvestment in the infrastructure under consecutive Westminster governments.

Both London parties have privatised and hollowed out public services. This has led to hundreds of skilled workers in the water service losing their jobs and much of the work handed to private companies. In the case of NI Water, the service was taken out of direct public ownership and scrutiny.

When the recent crisis struck, NI Water went into meltdown, as too few workers struggled to restore supply. In many instances, private contractors reaped the financial benefits of privatisation.

The minister has indicated his and his party's desire is to see NI Water taken back into full public ownership and for the decades of neglect to be reversed.

Trade unionists must make their voices heard on this issue. Public ownership of our vital public services, such as water, is something that many ordinary citizens now demand.

JIM McVEIGH

Siptu, Belfast

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