Who Owns Irish Water ?

There are many arguments for and against Water Charges –  but we try and remain neutral and report the facts where possible.

One of the many arguments  used against Irish Water is that it is  a “Private Company ” and that it should not be allowed to get information such as PPS numbers or household details .
The fact that Irish Water announces on the bottom of all their web pages that they are a “Private Company Limited by Shares” doesn’t really help ! It is confusing and it is understandable why the public are mistaken.
Most people when they see “Private Company”  –  think of privatisation , profit making, capitalists , shareholders and fat cats.

Irish Water is not owned by private individuals or corporations.
The truth is,  that (for the time being) – Irish Water is a fully state owned company . It is a  subsidiary of Ervia (which was formerly known as Bord Gais Eireann)  .  (If you missed it – more about Ervia here).  Ervia itself is a state owned statutory body.

When a company is registered it can be set up as a Private Limited Company or a Public Limited Company. A public company’s shares can be bought by the public – a private company’s cannot. The only shares in Irish Water are 50% owned by Bord Gais (Ervia) and 50% owned by the state. Bord Gais (Ervia)  itself is 97% state owned. (About 3% is owned by employees) .

Irish Water is set up in a very similar way to An Post , Bus Eireann, Bord na Mona , Coiltte,  ESB, Ervia and  Irish Rail   (to name but a few).
The Irish Water setup  is the exact opposite of what most people think of when they hear “private company”   …  it is a nationalised,  state owned water utility that has been registered as a private company.
See registration details here for other well known state owned companies that are set up as private companies limited by shares:
ESB Networks
Bus Eireann
An Post
Irish Rail

(Maybe someone in Irish Water might want to think about changing the company description on the bottom of all their web pages to avoid any confusion?)

Irish Water is sometimes described as a “semi state” company – which seems to give some people the fairly reasonable  idea that it must be only half owned by the state and half owned by someone else. The term semi-state is a misleading one which is often used to describe companies or bodies that are actually fully owned by the state.
Yes – Irish Water  do use a lot of private companies to do some of the work – but so did the Councils and many government departments.
Yes  – they do use a company connected to Denis O’Brien to install some of the water  meters – but (for now) he doesn’t own any part Irish Water.


Now that Irish Water has been set up and all the water services centralised  – it will of course be much easier to privatise water services  in the future if any government wish to do so (or are told to do so by the EU or IMF). It will mean a change in legislation – but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

There was little or no protest when Bord Gais Energy was sold off to Centrica on the cheap – many people probably don’t even realise that it happened at all.
Many customers of Bord Gais Energy don’t realise they are now customers of Centrica.

3 thoughts on “Who Owns Irish Water ?

  1. Hi, very interesting. Cynically I add ‘its just a tax then’? or is this a mehchanism for enabling the eventual sale to the ‘real’ private sector?

  2. If it says private company on the tin, it is private company in the tin.
    I can see when this argument surfaces a year or 2 down the road, IW will turn around and say, ‘Sure it says it on our web site in black and white, private company’
    Just typical, trying to confuse the public.

  3. as soon as IW reaches profitablitiy it will be sold to the highest bidder and once that happens then can charge what they want and push up the prices and no ammount of protesting will make one shred of difference. The govt will say ‘theres nothing we can do, theyre a private company’, and that will be that. Anyone who has signed a contract will be bound by contract Law to pay. The rest of us..? who knows…

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