Helen O'Toole, Anti Austerity Campaigner, provides an eye witness report on the 10 December protest in Dublin
As another year of political activity in Ireland draws to a close, a year that saw 14 Anti Austerity Alliance counsellors elected at local elections and two Anti Austerity Alliance TD’s (MPs) gain seats in the Dail (Irish Parliament), tens of thousands took to the streets again today to protest at the introduction of water charges.
The We Won’t Pay campaign, various Says No groups and Right2Water helped to draw massive crowds onto the streets of Dublin at lunchtime. The 10December will surely be remembered as one of the most important days in our History. I was there. This was my third demonstration and as with the other two, there was an atmosphere of camaraderie, friendship and unity. We stood shoulder to shoulder, solid in our belief that this unjust tax could and would be defeated.
Six years of austerity measures introduced during the ‘Recession’ have brought most people to the point of breaking. The water charges were just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Government’s decision to set up a semi state company to charge for water usage, replacing the current system which is paid through general taxation, has proved to be the most controversial of all austerity measures and as a result, a massive social movement has been born. So big in fact that members of the Detroit Water Brigade – where 27,000 homes had their water cut off for not paying their bills – arrived in Dublin to join the protesters.
Irish Water has paid out over €85 million in fees to consultants, contractors and lawyers. The CEO’s salary is €200,000 – and all before one major reform to the current water system has been carried out. The fact that our water will in all likelihood be sold is another mitigating factor to the anger and resentment felt by the Irish people. Once privatised, this is more than probable. Meanwhile the Government have been draconian in their cutbacks to social services and unemployment, while the social repercussions such as homelessness and repossessions are on a scale never seen before.
However, all that said, the people have discovered their own power. They are self-motivated, self-organised and are tired of the intimidation and the demonisation by the Government. The sticks and carrots don’t work anymore. The good people of Ireland will not pay twice for what is regarded as a natural resource and a human right. No Water charges, No Irish Water. United we stand. In the words of Clare Daly TD, the Government has succeeded in galvanising the people in opposition to their policies.
I personally will not be accepting their water meter, I have entered into no contract with them and I will not part with one cent to pay for something that falls from the sky in vast amounts in Ireland. I will continue to march, protest and have my voice heard. No longer will I be bullied by an arrogant and egotistical Government who do not have the best interests of my people at heart.