Big Irish anti-water charges movement

This video from Ireland says about itself:

Dublin City Protest 10th December 2014

Tens of thousands turn out in Dublin to demand ‘Right 2 Water‘.

By Eugene McCartan in Ireland:

Can’t pay won’t pay for water

Wednesday 17th December 2014

A grassroots movement is uniting with trade unions to resist punitive water charging in Ireland. It must stay united to win, says EUGENE McCARTAN

A decade ago the Republic of Ireland was held up by both the Irish establishment and the European Union as the poster boy of how to attract foreign investment and industrialisation.

It was touted as the most open economy in the world, and an example for others to follow, particularly those countries in eastern Europe.

Then, when the crash came, the Irish were once again held up as an example for others to follow in accepting the medicine dished out by the EU, European Central Bank and IMF as the only cure.

The imposition of the odious corporate banking debt has been the means used by the external troika in active alliance with the internal troika of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Irish Labour Party, which seized upon the crisis to step up its assault upon workers and their families.

They dusted down long-held plans to drive workers back and undo the gains that they have won over many decades.

After six years of austerity budgets, savage cuts in state expenditure — with over €30 billion taken out of public spending, coupled with additional taxes both direct and indirect, levies and charges, the “national” debt stands are around 120 per cent of GDP and costs about €9 billion a year just to service.

Some groups estimate that the debt stands at around €300 billion.

The government, believing it had the people cowed, imposed water charges, which in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people was the last straw.

These and other charges were agreed as part of the Programme for Ireland between the EU/ECB/IMF troika and the Irish state.

A broadly based Right2Water campaign emerged and along with local campaigning community organisations began to oppose water charges. District groups actively prevented the installation of water meters, firstly in County Cork, then quickly spreading across the country and across working-class communities in major towns and cities.

The first big national demo took place in mid-October with 100,000 people occupying the centre of Dublin. This was followed up with another national mobilisation in 106 local venues in November with some estimates putting total turnout at over 160,000.

The last big mobilisation took place on December 10, once again in Dublin, at which close to 100,000 people mobilised.

This was a mid-week rally gathering outside the Dail at 1pm in bitterly cold weather with the majority of protesters staying the course of the three-and-a-half-hour rally.

Further state-wide protests are planned for January 31.

Campaigners came from across the country and all major working-class districts of Dublin. Local activists gathered at different points of the city to converge on the Dáil, making it impossible for the state to control or manage, bringing the city once again to a standstill.

This has been an important feature of the campaign as various strategies and tactics are applied across the state, but it remains united under the umbrella of Right2Water. At its core are five trade unions — Mandate (retail workers), Unite, CWU, CPSU (lower grade public servants) and the Plasterers’ Union. Two other significant trade unions, TEEU and Siptu, have come out in opposition to water charges but have yet to move beyond paper resolutions to active campaigning.

The very flexible nature of the R2W has allowed trade unions to re-engage with the wider working class and equally it has brought community activists into a working relationship with progressive trade unionism, moving trade unions out of the narrow gauge of self-interest and into a wider social context of workers’ struggle.

At the same time the campaign is undermining the anti-trade union narrative carefully nurtured by the bosses’ media over decades among sections of working people. This emerging relationship can only benefit both and is clearly a possible template for future united action but needs to be built upon mutual respect.

One of the key elements at the centre of the resistance is the emerging Communities Against Water Charges, particularly in Dublin, which have built a network for early warning to monitor the movements of the company installing water meters so as to be able to alert locals to come out on the streets to prevent meters being installed.

Smaller actions have taken place by groups calling themselves “Water Fairies” — they come and take out water meters already installed.

The breadth of the coalition has forced the government to backtrack to some degree in its project of imposing water charges. The state is reconfiguring its strategy, without abandoning water charges or preparation for future privatisation.

The only guarantee of the people’s interests and the prevention of privatisation is a constitutional amendment enshrining public ownership and control.

The government and the state have laid out a strategy for dividing and breaking the broad coalition of groups opposed to these charges.

They have been attempting to use the old trusted weapon of splitting campaigners into those who are “reasonable” — those with sensible and genuine concerns who are experiencing financial difficulties, and those who are “unreasonable” or “subversive” — campaigners who refuse point-blank and do not appreciate the real efforts by the government to address reasonable concerns.

In addition, the state along with the mass media are attempting to define what they consider acceptable forms of protest and what they do not. But the diverse nature of the resistance and the nature of local protests is causing them great difficulties.

What is needed now is to maintain the maximum unity of all those opposed to water charges. There is certainly a need for a deeper debate within Right2Water about the best way forward. Sustaining prolonged non-payment has been shown to be very difficult.

There is a clear need to deepen the political understanding not just of the charges but of the attempt to commodify water. The real question of resistance against both the CETA and TTIP agreements needs to be brought into the debate.

The imposition of these charges exposes in a small way the deeply inhuman nature of a capitalist society. All economic activity is solely for profit, and nothing else matters, while socialist economics is about social and economic development that is centred on fulfilling the people’s needs.

It’s time to open up a national debate about a transformative economic and social strategy, centred on the needs of the people and not of big business — and regardless of what the European Union allows or does not allow.

See also here.

Three separate opinion polls shows Labour Party support at its lowest point ever in Irish politics with just 5 per cent in two polls and 6 per cent in the other. Despite a new leader, Joan Burton, the party continues to hemorrhage support, being blamed for unpopular belt tightening policies and water charges: here.

PROTEST GROUPS FROM the US city of Detroit and from austerity-hit Greece are travelling to Dublin for the next big water protest: here.

5 thoughts on “Big Irish anti-water charges movement

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