O’Brien/Siteserv controversy ‘epitomises’ austerity policies, says Murphy

Anti-water charges campaign a ‘concrete weapon to fight back’ againt elites who received ‘special deals’, TD tells delegates in Dublin

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy: campaign ‘has to be built  by giving people a sense of solidarity with their community, with their neighbours, with people standing together refusing to pay'. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy: campaign ‘has to be built by giving people a sense of solidarity with their community, with their neighbours, with people standing together refusing to pay'. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

More than 300 people representing 60 anti-water charge groups gathered in Dublin on Sunday in a move designed to ramp up pressure on Irish Water and the Government in advance of the general election.

Delegates from groups as far apart as Dublin and Donegal also attended workshops on how to knock on doors and organise street meetings, building a network of groups to participate in a national boycott of water bills.

Workshops at the event in the Red Cow Hotel included instruction on resourcing local campaigns and fundraising, as well as “using social media to get our message across”.

Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy told delegates the Denis O’Brien/Siteserv controversy “epitomised” all that was wrong with inflicting austerity on ordinary people.

He said that, “according to Catherine Murphy in the Dáil”, Mr O’Brien had “benefited from big loans” but was not alone among elites who had received such “special deals”.

Mr Murphy said the real difference between these revelations about Mr O’Brien’s arrangements and previous, similar revelations was “now we have the biggest social movement in decades”. He told delegates they had “a very concrete weapon to fight back”.

The TD said the battle was “all about fear” on the Government side and “all about the confidence that we build on our side”.

Because, he said, the campaign could no longer depend on the [traditional] media, confidence “has to be built on the ground. It has to be built door to door, has to be built with street meetings, has to be built with leaflets, has to be built by giving people a sense of solidarity with their community, with their neighbours with people standing together refusing to pay.

“People know instinctively that this is the one that we can win on, and we are a lot closer to building the kind of mass, working class, left-movement that can end the rule of the Denis O’Briens, the bankers, the bond holders and the one percent [elite] in this state,” he said.

Dublin City Councillor Bríd Smith said networks of people refusing to pay represented a considerable weapon, which the people had on their side.

Ms Smith said the Government had created the impression that money could be taken from people’s income, similar to the property tax. But she said new legislation was needed, and those who refused to pay could not be prosecuted for at least a year of non-payment.

Judges’ orders

In any case, she said, with about a third of the population not paying, the movement had the numbers to ensure the legal system couldn’t cope.

“Water charges have encapsulated all of the anger, all of the bitterness and all of the resentment that we the majority have built up against the minority of bullies and elites who have torn the fabric of our society and our lives apart,” Ms Smith said.