Monday, August 31, 2015

Dublin Anti-Water Tax Protest renewed:

The scene in O'Connell St., Dublin, Saturday, 29 August 2015

Government dismay at
size of turnout:

57% of households have not
paid water tax: 

Tens of thousands of anti-water charge protesters took to the streets of Dublin last Saturday in the fifth major demonstration against the new utility Uisce Éireann/Irish Water.

Two main groups converged on O'Connell Street after gathering at Heuston(West) and Connolly Station(East) before marching  along the Liffey quays. Among them were 23 protesters facing charges over incidents in West Dublin last November when Tanaiste(Deputy Prime Minister) Joan Burton was forced to remain in her car for more than two hours after being prevented from leaving a graduation ceremony. They began their involvement with a protest on the steps of the Courts of Criminal Justice near Hueston Station. Bus loads of people also descended on the capital from around the country with smaller feeder marches coming in to the city from the suburbs. Buses from about 26 locations around the country brought protesters to the streets of Dublin for the latest march. The Right2Water group, which organised the march, estimated about 80,000 protesters turned out. Regular train services brought thousands more to the Capital.

Paul Murphy, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD, and one of those expecting to be charged over the Jobstown protest, claimed if this government does not "bow to the inevitable" and abolish water charges the next government will be under immense pressure to do so;
"This is an opportunity for people to show firstly that the anti-water charges movement has not gone away, despite repeated reports of its demise, and to go after the government now on water," he said. "They are reeling under the impact of 57pc non-payment, failing the Eurostat test and it's an opportunity to put an extra nail in the coffin of Irish Water and water charges."

As thousands assembled in the City Centre, a rally was held in front of the General Post Oiffice(scene of the Declaration of the Irish Republic in 1916) on O'Connell Street with leading Trade Union figures among those to address the crowds. Among the other political figures to join the demonstration were People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett and Independent TD Clare Daly, Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and Catherine Murphy of the newly formed Social Democrats.

After the demonstration the Right2Water group said the campaign against the charges would continue. "Today saw between 80,000 and 100,000 people from all over the country gather in Dublin to restate our demand for the abolition of water charges," a spokesman said. "The Right2Water campaign will continue until that objective is achieved."

Trade Unions affiliated to the campaign - Unite, the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union, Mandate, the Communications Workers Union, the Civil Public and Services Union and Opatsi, the plasterers' union - said they are now planning town hall meetings to gather more support. In a statement the Trade Unions said that the protest had galvanised opposition to austerity and they plan to use the gatherings to promote a wider campaign on housing, jobs and democratic reform. "Politics is about choices, and the wrong choices have been made," the unions said.

Most political commentators now concede that water charges will now be a major issue in the forthcoming general election in 2016. Both Fine Gael and Labour Government candidates had hoped earlier this year that the political intensity surrounding the issue could be defused, but now the danger is that those who have signed up and paid may do a rethink, adding to the numbers opposing the charges. Figures issued by the Water Utility earlier this year showed that 57% of households had failed to pay the first bill issued in April. A second bill has now been issued but, no figures have been released on payment levels.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said the scale of the protest sent a clear message to Government that water charges must be abolished. Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald urged the Government to use the October Budget to abolish the charges and described Irish Water as "one fiasco after the other". Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) TD Paul Murphy said the demonstration showed the Government was "on the run" over water charges. Mr Murphy also said his organisation had been denied Garda (police) permission for a collection in his Dublin South West constituency on grounds that it would "encourage an illegal act".

Mr Murphy said the Socialist Party, a forerunner of the AAA, had been granted a collection permit in the past and he was seeking legal advice on the matter and may appeal to the courts. He said he could only conclude the refusal related to the AAA's role in opposing water charges and he suggested the Gardai were "behaving politically".

(Targetting dissent; see Blagaroon 2: )

Senior sources in both governing parties concede they cannot afford the huge loss of face arising from a policy reversal. They are also committed to huge investment in Irish Water. But both Fine Gael and Labour concede the issue will cost them votes. Although government spokespeople continue to insist there will be no change of policy regarding water tax the Government are on a hiding to nothing as the General Election approaches and the national boycott against water tax seems to be gathering more support by the day.
Saturday's massive turnout representing the entire country effectively burst the Government's bubble of  denial of the past few months.

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