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NI Water must not be immune from the law.
11 January 2011

Many thousands of homes in Northern Ireland experienced disruption to their water supply over Christmas.

Here at Friends of the Earth, we will wait for the conclusions of the inquiry that will be conducted by the NI Authority for Utility Regulation rather than blaming any specific individuals.

We are concerned that Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, may react by taking the regressive step of bringing NI Water fully back into his Department.

When Water Service, as it was then called, was an agency of the Department for Regional Development (DRD), it enjoyed Crown Immunity from prosecution. It was regularly exposed as being guilty of large-scale pollution but could not be prosecuted. 

When NI Water was created in 2006 immunity from prosecution was removed. Bringing it back into DRD could reinstate Crown Immunity, and leave the UK open to cripplingly large fines from Europe.

Friends of the Earth believes that NI Water should remain quasi-independent of the Department. We will oppose any move by the Minister to reverse the progress made on ensuring that the rule of law applies to the company.