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Blue Planet Project in solidarity with Irish right to water protests

Right to Water

On October 11, as many as 100,000 people marched in Dublin, Ireland against austerity and water charges. An even larger protest is expected across the country on November 1. The Irish Examiner reports, “A mass wave of water protests will be staged across the country this weekend as public anger over the controversial charges continues. …Tens of thousands of protesters will take to the streets on Saturday at more than 50 rallies in cities, towns, and villages in what organisers hope will be the biggest mass mobilisation against the levy.”

Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow explains the context of this situation in her book Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet. She writes, “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.”

Barlow adds, “The company is set to meter homes across the country, and the price of water is expected to reach as high as 400 euros (approximately $520) a year for average families. 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. Irish Water is a clear example of the corporatization of a public water service.”

The Green Party of Ireland agrees with Barlow. Party leader Eamon Ryan has commented, “It is operated akin to a private company and the nature of the bonus payments and the commercial processes being put in place are already bringing it in the direction towards being a privatised company.”

His party has now proposed that a constitutional referendum on the privatization of Irish Water take place next year. The Irish Times reports, “The party wants to amend Article 10 of the Constitution which deals with ownership of natural resources to state that ‘… the State shall not provide for the privatisation or commercialisation of water services for the people’.” Ryan says, “At the moment the continued public ownership of this precious resource hangs on the support of the government of the day. We believe that our water supply should never be up for sale. We can ensure that that will never happen by inserting a new Article into our constitution which would guarantee the public ownership of our water supply into the future.”

The Socialist Party and Sinn Fein also oppose the water charges being imposed by Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny and his Fine Gael party in coalition with the Labour party.

In response to the increased political pressure, the Irish government is reportedly about to propose various measures to quell the protests including a capped family payment, easy-pay options, and an extended period where all households pay flat rates. But Right2WaterIreland campaign spokesperson David Gibney says, “We are not looking for tax credits, we are not looking for changes to allowances or tinkering around with the system, but for the abolition of water charges.”

On October 27, Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan wrote 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.”

Our message of solidarity and a web-link to Barlow’s op-ed Everyone in Detroit Should Have Access To Clean Water are now posted on the Right2Water website. Karunananthan has also been interviewed on Irish radio about what is happening in Detroit. That interview can be heard here starting at the 9-minute mark.

Further reading
Massive right to water protests take place in Ireland