The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has said that Minister Darragh O'Brien expects to be in a position to bring forward definitive proposals on a referendum on water ownership for consideration by the Government early in the New Year.

The department said that engagement with trade unions on the future delivery of water services concluded successfully this summer and that information about the planned approach to a referendum on water ownership was shared with unions in July.

"This planned approach will see Minister O'Brien bring forward a referendum proposal on water ownership for consideration by Government in conjunction with the anticipated recommendation of a proposed referendum on housing from the Commission on Housing," a department spokesperson said.

Earlier, a coalition of trade unions launched a new campaign calling on the Government to confirm a date for a constitutional referendum on the public ownership of water services.

The 'Keep Water Public’ campaign is supported by SIPTU, Fórsa, Unite, Connect and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

"It’s time now to end any lingering uncertainty about the future of water services in Ireland," said ICTU President and Fórsa General Secretary, Kevin Callinan.

"A referendum would give people the opportunity to have their say, in addition to providing us all with a unique opportunity to safeguard public ownership of water for future generations," Mr Callinan said.

John King, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, said the Government needed to live up to its commitments and name the date for the referendum.

"Union members have been fighting for years to make sure that water services are delivered for the public good and not private profit," Mr King added.