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Barlow meets with Right2Water Ireland activists in Dublin

Barlow meets with Right2Water Ireland activists.

Barlow meets with Right2Water Ireland activists.

Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow met with Right2Water Ireland activists in Dublin yesterday.

On Facebook, Right2Water Ireland commented after the meeting, “Today we had the privilege of hosting a meeting with Maude Barlow, one of the most prolific and passionate water campaigners in the world. Maude gets it. She knows what the real agenda is. Privatisation! Maude and her campaign group are extraordinarily impressed with what the Irish water movement has done to date. She told us that the worldwide water movement is awestruck with your fight to maintain our water in public ownership, paid for through progressive taxation. ‘The rest of the world should learn from the Irish model. We are all watching and we are hoping that you win!'”

In her book Blue Future, Barlow wrote, “In May 2011 the government of Ireland signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to reform its water sector to comply with strict new austerity measures. The government then established a public water utility called Irish Water, with a clear mandate to operate as a private company. In exchange for an 85-billion-euro bailout for the country, the MOU required that ‘public provision of water services is to end and this function is to be transferred to a utility company’, and it further committed Ireland to move toward full cost recovery through water metering. Water resources are abundant in Ireland, and until the creation of the new utility, water services for residents had been delivered free of charge. Costs were paid for through tax revenues and by charging commercial users.”

Vice adds, “[The Republic of] Ireland is set to become one of the few countries in the world with mandatory water meters. This means its residents will be paying more than most Europeans do for water, whereas before it was paid for by taxes.” And the BBC has specified, “Bills will range from 176 euros (£137) a year for a single-person household to nearly 500 euros (£389) for a family of four adults.” The Irish League of Credit Unions says 1.8 million people in Ireland – close to half the population – have less than €100 ($127) left every month after paying their bills.

The Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny leads the Fine Gael party, governs in coalition with the Labour party, and supports the water charges. The Anti-Austerity Alliance, led by the Socialist Party, and Sinn Fein oppose the water charges. Socialist Party member of the Dáil Éireann (Irish parliament) Joe Higgins describes the water charge as “an attack on working class people”. The Guardian has reported, “Both ruling parties’ fortunes have plummeted in recent opinion polls, with Sinn Féin and independents gaining most support from the public ire over the water charges.”

Major protests have taken place against the water charges on October 11, November 1, December 10 in 2014 and on January 31 and March 21 in 2015.

The water charges came into force in January and the first bills were issued in April. In July, the Irish Times reported, “Irish Water has collected 46 per cent of all domestic water charge payments due to it for the first three months of billing. …Failure to make any payments over the first year of billing means a penalty sum of €30 for an one-person household and €60 for all other households will apply. Irish Water will also have the power to introduce attachment orders to deduct unpaid bills from wages and welfare.”

Water charges are likely to be the central issue in the next general election which must take place before April 3, 2016.

The Blue Planet Project stands in solidarity with the water justice and anti-austerity movements in Ireland.

In October 2014, Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan wrote Right2Water Ireland campaign spokesperson David Gibney to state, “The Blue Planet Project wishes to express its solidarity with people in Ireland who are protesting the installation of water meters and introduction of tariffs. …As recently witnessed in Detroit, once unsustainable and undemocratic tariffication systems are imposed, the poor pay a larger share of their household income for common services and are made vulnerable by the threat of shut-offs and penalties when unable to pay.”

Further reading
Thousands march in Ireland against water meters and for the release of water warriors (Feb. 21, 2015)
100,000 march against water charges in Ireland (Dec. 11, 2014)
Windsor chapter says from Detroit to Dublin water is a human right (Nov. 2, 2014)
Blue Planet Project in solidarity with Irish right to water protests (Oct. 29, 2014)
Massive right to water protests take place in Ireland (Oct. 14, 2014)
Austerity measures hit water services in Ireland (April 18, 2012)
IMF bailout means water charges for Irish homes (June 14, 2011)