An audit of the water system would address whether it was fit for purpose, Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen told the Dáil.
“If, as many on the Government side have said, we do not have an efficient water service, why should people be asked to pay for an inefficient service?” He added: “It is only when that service is fit for purpose and we can stand over it, with the necessary safeguards in place, conservation at its heart and a pristine service, that the Government will be in a position to charge.”
Mr Cowen was speaking during the resumed debate on the Water Services Bill 2013, setting up Irish Water and paving the way for the installation of water meters in domestic properties.
He said Fianna Fáil would oppose the Bill, not necessarily because the party was against water charges but because of the manner in which Irish Water was being established and configured.
“There are not sufficient safeguards within the parameters by which it has been set up to stave off what we believe is a real and live threat of privatisation at a later date,” he added.
Mr Cowen said he was conscious that there were many group schemes, private and public, which would not be considered profitable in the event of a buyer arriving in years to come.
Brian Stanley (Sinn Féin) said the Bill was fundamentally flawed and draconian in its content. It did not take into account people on low incomes or the poor. Some 706,000 people in the State lived in poverty and their households would be charged the same as himself, a Minister of State or the Taoiseach.
Independent Thomas Pringle said there were risks involved in establishing a single utility.
“We will lose local knowledge in terms of how staff can respond to emergencies,” Mr Pringle added. “We will lose the local workforce and the ability to react quickly.”
Independent Clare Daly said the entire premise on which Irish Water was established was based on an independent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers. However the report was seriously flawed in that the conclusions reached were based on a false analysis of Scottish Water.