Nearly 4,000 in Cork to march against water charges

Protest numbers down from 15,000-20,000 last November

Anti-water charges protesters take part in a demonstration organised by the Cork Says No group through the centre of Cork city.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Anti-water charges protesters take part in a demonstration organised by the Cork Says No group through the centre of Cork city. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Several thousand people braved driving sleet and rain in Cork to march against the proposed water charges due for introduction later this year.

Gardaí estimated the crowd at 3,500- 4,000 - down from the 15,000-20,000 attendance estimated for the last protest organised by the Right2Water campaign last November.

One of the organisers of today’s protest, John Lonergan of the Ballyphehane Anti-Water Charge Group, estimated the numbers as being roughly half of the turnout in November.

The protest began in sunshine on the Grand Parade when a host of speakers condemned the government for its plan to introduce water charges despite widespread opposition.

Diarmuid O Cadhla of the People’s Convention received thunderous applause when he asked why the government was ignoring the wishes of the people.

“Hundreds of thousands have marched, hundreds of thousands have refused to register with Irish Water, obviously declaring this is a policy is not the will of the people of Ireland

“So why have we a government that persists in saying this is in our interest .... we are citizens with rights - there is no government that has a right to dictate to the people.”

Cllr Mick Barry of the Socialist Party and Anti-Austerity Alliance told the rally that a mass refusal to pay Irish Water bills could sink Irish water and defeat the government.

“Last year, mass demonstrations forced concessions from the government and this year mass demonstrations can finish off their bloody water charges,” he said.

Cllr Thomas Gould of Sinn Féin said Irish Water was created by Fine Gael and Labour for two reasons - the first of which was to create a new tax to gather money from the Irish people

“The second reason was to privatise water so that the elites who think they run this country can become more powerful and make more money - we say ‘No, never’.”

Jim O’Connell of People Before Profit also called on people not to pay their Irish Water bills when they receive them later in the year.

Community based opposition to the proposed charges was evident in the march with groups from Mahon, Ballyphehane and Ballyvolane in the city all carrying banners.

Groups from across the county were also prominent including Carrigaline, Glanmire, Blarney, Tower, Ballincollig, Cobh, Youghal and Midleton.

Among the political groups present were Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party, as well as the Connolly Youth Movement and The People’s Convention.

A number of trade unions were represented in the march including SIPTU members working for Cork City Council and the Independent Workers Union.

Although the demonstration began in bright but chilly sunshine, the weather quickly transformed into a ferocious shower of bitter sleet and rain.

However the marchers persevered and by the time they reached the Grand Parade for a final rally, the sun had re-emerged.

Among those on the protest was farmer, Robert Dukelow who although he has his own well and will not have to pay a water charge, had travelled from the Mizen Peninsula in West Cork

“It took me two hours to drive up and I was here in November as well and I went to Dublin in December - the government are taking it off the poor and giving to the rich,” he said.

“I’m a small farmer - I have 50 acres -and my income is down to zero and I’m living on the tax payers of this country through Farm Assist - how can I afford the Local Property Tax.

“I have my own well so I won’t have to pay water charges but they are going to tie me into some contract and I won’t be able to pay it in the future, it’s ridiculous.”