Tens of thousands attend water charges protest in Dublin

Demonstrators demand end to Irish Water and ‘bully boy’ tactics of Government

Tens of thousands of anti-water charges protesters gathered at a stage at the Spire on O’Connell Street in Dublin on Saturday, after setting off from Heuston and Connolly train stations.

A number of smaller groups also marched in from the suburbs for the demonstration, which was organised by the Right2Water campaign.

The protest was the fifth official Right2Water demonstration.

It was supported by five trade unions, including Mandate, whose president John Douglas said the current Government will attempt to divide the population in the upcoming budget.

"The arrogance and the disrespect for the Irish people in the way Irish Water was set up typifies how rotten this country is," Mr Douglas said, making his first public appearance at an anti-water charges rally.

"A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, and by that test Ireland fails goddamn miserably. This economy, this society is broken- it's rotten to the core.

“There is no recovery, it’s a bloody myth, they made it up to con us. We know best, we’re the people of Ireland, we know there’s no recovery in Ireland and the only recovery is for the elite few,” he said, adding that people were also mobilising against homelessness and under-investment in the public sector.

In her speech to the protesters, Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald denounced the “bully-boy” tactics of the Government in trying to impose domestic water charges.

However, she said afterwards that her party has not yet decided whether people who haven’t paid their bills should be entitled to receive the €100 conservation grant.

“You can see from the numbers here today that people have not been intimidated or bought off or persuaded that this issue is not important anymore- this still matters a great deal,” she said, before reaffirming Sinn Féin’s stance that refunds on water charges will not be provided if the party gets into government.

“We would not be making rebates to people who have paid the charges, but neither would we be asking for the conservation charge back.

“We’re just being honest with people. The figures have to add up and you have to balance the books.”

Feeder marches

Protesters from across the country arrived at Heuston and Connolly stations earlier this afternoon for feeder marches.

As with previous protests, there were traffic delays along the north and south quays, with O’Connell Street closed to traffic on both lanes and interruptions to bus and Luas services.

Gardaí reported no disturbances.

The organisers of the event vowed to keep up the pressure on Fine Gael and Labour to abolish the controversial utility, but details of follow-up protests in the coming months have not yet been revealed.

Right2Water spokesman David Gibney earlier said that the protest was also about other problems people faced, including access to healthcare, lack of housing and the right to education.

“This demonstration today it is not just about water. This is about the type of society we want to live in and a vision for the future,” he said.