Coalition insists registrations real test of water charges

Acknowledgement across Leinster House that protest will be large

People Before Profit Councillor John Lyons says tens of thousands of protesters are expected to turn out for today's anti-water charge demonstration.

 

The Government is again insisting the real test of its revised water charges package remains the amount of people who sign up with Irish Water rather than the size of Dublin’s protest today.

Coalition sources claimed the number of registrations with Irish Water now stands at about 800,000 out of 1.3 million, although this was the same figure used before the revised water charges were announced last month.

However, Coalition sources are still confident they will reach one million homes registered with the new semi-State by Christmas.

In addition to the 800,000 homes registered for billing, about 130,000 other homes on group water schemes – who are not charged – have also given their details to Irish Water.

There is an acknowledgement across Leinster House that today’s protest, which starts at 1pm and runs until 7pm, will be large.

“It’ll be a big protest alright, probably around 50,000, but after that it’s all about the numbers who sign up,” a Coalition source said last night.

Ruth Coppinger, the anti-water charges campaigner and Socialist Party TD, expressed frustration that An Garda Síochána are restricting the protesters to the Merrion Square side of Leinster House. She predicted that the Dáil will “almost be encircled” anyway.

Ahead of the protest, TDs and Senators have been advised by the Houses of the Oireachtas to stay away from the Leinster House entrances at Merrion Square, where a stage is to be erected from early this morning.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly was due to attend a climate change conference in Peru this week but stayed behind for the protest, with Minister for Communications Alex White travelling instead. Joe Higgins, another Socialist Party TD, said the protest will highlight that the Government’s “trickery” in offering concessions to the public has not worked.

Mr Higgins said he expected tens of thousands of people to participate in the march, which he believed could have a “material impact” on the water charge regime, the austerity agenda and the durability of the Government.

Genuine concern

“The Government’s trickery in trying to make so called concessions just hasn’t worked whatsoever,” Mr Higgins said, adding that he had relatives leaving from Co Kerry at 7am for the protest.

Asked if he had any concerns over safety at the event following controversy over the protest in Jobstown last month, Mr Higgins replied that he always stood for disciplined and peaceful marches which also reflected the anger felt by the public.

Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy, who was criticised over his role in the Jobstown protest, said people planning to attend should have no concern over safety and that groups in attendance would be putting forward members to act as stewards.

Mr Murphy said a decision to charge a man for letting air out of a car tyre during the Jobstown protest was “a gross overreaction”. Mr Murphy said the man had made “a silly mistake” but he alleged that the reason for his arrest and court appearance was to “smear” the protest movement.

Asked about the allegation made by Mr Murphy, a Garda spokeswoman said: “There is an ongoing investigation into the incident and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”