Socialist Worker

Mass protests in Ireland over new water charges

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2425

Part of the protest in Ireland last Saturday (Pic: Richard Boyd Barrett)

Part of the protest in Ireland last Saturday (Pic: Richard Boyd Barrett)


Protesters filled the streets of Dublin last Saturday against the introduction of water charges.

Organisers had hoped 20,000 would turn up, but in fact some 100,000 people protested. 

“This day will go down in history as the day that the people decided to roar,” Independent MP Clare Daly told the crowd. 

“We are here in our tens of thousands to say water is a human right, based on need, not an ability to pay.”

Brendan Ogle of the Unite union said, “It is a tipping point. It was a protest against water charges but it was also about six years of hurt, six years where the forces of austerity have pushed and pushed and pushed, and the people just cannot, and will not, take any more.”

In the run-up to the demonstration there have been a series of protests across Ireland to prevent the installation of water meters. 

Protesters have burnt letters from Irish Water, and vowed not to pay the charge. Others said they had returned their envelopes with the slogan, “We won’t pay”.

While marchers expressed huge anger at the government there was particular rage directed at the Labour Party, especially deputy prime minister Joan Burton.

She had dismissed earlier local protests, saying that people on them obviously weren’t as poor as they claimed because they filmed them on their smartphones. 

Sections of the crowd chanted “Hide your phone—here comes Joan”. 

Ridicule

“It is tragic,” said Brendan, “The leader of the Labour Party has become the figure of ridicule among what should be Labour Party voters.” 

He said Burton should apologise for “getting up like Marie Antoinette and insinuating if people can afford a phone they should pay for water”.

People Before Profit MP Richard Boyd Barrett says street meetings have been called where water meters were being installed, which has led to political mobilisation on a new scale.

“I attended eight meetings around Dun Laoghaire in the last fortnight and there have been over 800 at them. I was at one in Tipperary where there were 200 and one in Rush where there were about 70. There has been massive mobilisation though Facebook and social media.

“Water is so essential to human life that it’s unbelievable this government would try to turn it into a commodity.

“We already pay some of the highest indirect taxes in Europe so this is just one charge too many for people already struggling to make ends meet.”

The charges kicked in on 1 October with the first bill due in January. People before Profit councillor Gino Kenny said that he had not seen such a large crowd at a protest since 2003 when people marched against the war in Iraq.

“The atmosphere was great,” he said. “This is just the start of a much larger campaign. We mustn’t lose momentum, this is when people need to stand together. The government are in big trouble”.

A day of local protests is planned for 1 November.


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Article information

International
Tue 14 Oct 2014, 17:19 BST
Issue No. 2425
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