By John Molyneux in Dublin
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Mass revolt over water charges sweeps Ireland

This article is over 9 years, 7 months old
Issue 2428
Protests took place all across Ireland against water charges
Protests took place all across Ireland against water charges (Pic: William Murphy/Flickr)

An extraordinary wave of protest swept across every town in Ireland last Saturday. 

In a country of only 4.5 million people around 200,000 took to the streets against the government’s proposed water charges.

This follows an immense national demonstration of over 100,000 in Dublin last month.

If the overall figure is massive, the real scale of the revolt shows itself in the detail. In Letterkenny, a town of 20,000 in Donegal, about 10,000 people marched. 

In Drogheda, population 38,000, it was 8,000. In small towns like Swords, north of Dublin, and Bray, south of Dublin, Sligo in the north west and Waterford on the south coast, the figure was about 5,000. 

Even in very small places like Fermoy in Cork (population about 5,000) and Gorey (9,000) there were 1-2,000 on the streets.

In Dublin, where the movement is most developed, there were about 30,000 in the city centre. But there were 25 protests at the same time in other parts of the city.  Most were thousands strong.

To give readers a flavour of the day, this is what happened in my neighbourhood of Drimnagh. The demo began outside my house where we gathered about 40 neighbours behind our banner. 

From there we marched to local shops, where our ranks swelled to 600. 

Then we marched through the local area growing to over 1,000 and down to a major roundabout about a mile away where we met up with four other marches. 

In all about 4,000 or so occupied and held the roundabout.

It was a feature of many of the marches that they engaged in civil disobedience, blocking key roads, roundabouts and tram lines.

But such were the numbers the police were powerless to intervene.

The day of action was called by the Right2Water campaign which was set up on the initiative of People Before Profit, a left wing electoral alliance.  It also involves the Socialist Party, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, Sinn Fein, and the Unite, Mandate and CPSU unions.

However the real driving force comes from grassroots organisation in local communities. All the marches have been very working class. 

The foundation of the movement was laid by organising in working class estates since September to stop the installation of water meters. 

This is reflected in the fact that one of the most popular slogans is “Stick your water meters up your arse!”

But there is also political generalisation. 

Other popular slogans are, “Enda in your ivory tower, this is called people power,” directed against premier Enda Kenny. 

And with its echoes of Palestine, “From the rivers to the sea, Irish water will be free.”

Recent election results and opinion polls show the radicalisation of the Irish working class. 

These show the decline of all the mainstream parties, and the rise of Sinn Fein and the far left.

This great people’s revolt is the culmination of six years of relentless austerity, unjust charges and cuts that have left working people with their backs to the wall. 

Now they have a sense of their power and believe they can defeat the hated water charges and bring down the government.

A number of local actions are planned before another great national demonstration on 10 December. 

It’s a working day—which involves a call to stay away from work and lay siege to parliament.


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