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Massive right to water protests take place in Ireland

Irish water

An estimated 100,000 people marched against water charges and austerity in the Irish capital of Dublin this past weekend. An even larger protest is expected on November 1.

Vice reports, “[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.” Reuters further explains, “After years of free water services, the centre-right coalition [government] has decided to charge households hundreds of euros from the start of next year, an unpopular move just 18 months before the next election [which must take place before April 3, 2016] where the government parties hope to be rewarded by voters for an economic upturn.”

BBC notes, “Raising money from water charges was a condition imposed on Ireland by the EU-IMF-ECB [European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank] troika as part of the country’s bailout in 2010 following economic collapse.” On November 28, 2010, the EU, IMF and the Irish state agreed to a €85 billion loan to Ireland, including €22.5 billion from the IMF.

“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.” This is a lot of money given 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 Irish Times has reported on speculation that “some measure [could be introduced] to help the lower paid and people on social welfare” pay their water bills.

RT.com adds, “The move [to charge for water] immediately became unpopular among the country’s population, and has sparked a mass non-payment movement.” The BBC article says, “Protests have taken place in different parts of the country, usually when contractors come to install meters for the new water-charging regime.”

Right to Water in Dublin

David Gibney of the Right2Water campaign says water is a human right and should not be dependent on income.

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 (a Canada-EU ‘free trade’ agreement opponent we met when he was a Member of the European Parliament in Brussels in 2010) describes the water charge as “an attack on working class people” and is part of the “we won’t pay campaign” that calls on people to “boycott the water charge”.

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

Further reading
IMF bailout means water charges for Irish homes (June 2011 blog)
Austerity measures hit water services in Ireland (April 2012 blog)