How the world saw Ireland’s water charge protests

Reports from US to China say ‘austerity-weary Irish people’ have had enough

In Ireland it was the story of the day but the anti-water charges protests in Dublin sparked coverage across the world.

Comments from readers under international articles ranged from saying the “protest were long overdue” and asking why did the public not protest during the bank bail outs while others were less sympathetic.

Al Jazeera reported using the headline "Ireland hit by mass protests over water tax".

The media outlet spoke to Sinn Féin Cllr Daithi Doolan, who said: “The government has misspent our money.”


The article spoke about water charges as the last “major measure” in Ireland’s six-year austerity drive.

It included reports a garda was brought to hospital with facial injuries before riot police encouraged the crowd to back away.

Chicago Tribune lead with the headline "Burn the bondholders' chant echoes through Dublin bailout protest".

In the introduction to the article, the reporter explained the anger during the protests had stemmed from the state rescue of the nation’s financial system.

It went on to describe public resistance to the charges had been amplified by the revelation junior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank may be entitled to a payout after the taxpayer put €35 billion into the lender.

Journalist John Walsh wrote in UK's Independent that Irish "people are waking up to the fact the money will be used to pay off the massive national debt".

“Charging the population for water in a country whose annual rainfall approaches Noah’s Ark proportions is pretty bizarre; charging twice sounds like the government is taking the Mick,” he said.

“How did the Irish government not see the protest coming? Couldn’t they have looked at British history and seen that nothing winds up the populace more than a combination of tax, hardship, government ingenuity, ministerial complacency and popular dislike of wasting money?”

China’s Xinhua News had a short piece on the Dublin protests against water charges.

America's Bloomberg Businessweek ran an article from their correspondent in Paris , Carol Matlack, with the headline "Austerity-Weary Ireland, Having to Pay for Water Is the Last Straw".

Matlack wrote: “The Irish have stoically endured six years of austerity. But they’re drawing the line at having to pay for water.”

The article also referred to the activists from Detroit who spoke at the campaign in Dublin yesterday.

She compared proposed water charges in Ireland close to average in the US.

“Although American rates vary widely, with such cities as Honolulu and Seattle charging about twice the national average,” she said.

Matlock quoted Irish Times columnist Michael Harding’s article “Water is so potent, even St. Patrick didn’t mess with it” to show the emotion behind the campaign.

Channel 4 used a photograph of gardaí facing off with protesters behind the barrier on Kildare Street.

They referred to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams address to the crowd from the makeshift stage.

“You have been able to stand for yourselves but for scores of thousands of people who have not been able to be here this day,” he said.

BBC lead with “Anger at Irish water charges surges online” in their piece.

Their footage covered protest songs and videos that have been posted by protesters online.

The Guardian had the headline “Water charges protest brings Dublin to a halt”.

“Coins, stones and plastic bottles were hurled at police lines,” described the minor incidents that broke out during the day.

“Despite exiting the international bailout last year, a growing economy and falling unemployment, the introduction of water charges has proved to be the potentially lethal issue that could doom the current Fine Gael-Labour coalition in the 2016 general election.”

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty is Digital Features Editor and journalist with The Irish Times