Dublin centre and suburbs bring tens of thousands onto street
Traffic disruption across the capital as crowds converge on GPO
Many local marches converged at the GPO on O’Connell Street this afternoon as tens of thousands protested against water charges.
There was traffic disruption across the city as marches also took place in many suburbs north and south.
The crowds lined the north and South quays of the Liffey before continuing on to the GPO chanting “power to the people” and “No way, we won’t pay”.
“Anybody would tell you they don’t mind paying their fair share of taxes but people are being crucified,” he said.
Irene Murray from Dublin City said “we shouldn’t have to pay for our water twice over. We’ve already paid for it through our taxes.”
She said the protest would send a message to the Government that the people want water charges dropped. “A lot of men and women with children, they just can’t take anymore,” she said.
Ms Murray said today’s protest was “much much bigger” than the previous anti-water charge demonstration.
By 3.20pm the space on O’Connel Street between the Spire and Abbey street was densely packed with protestors.
Earlier several Dublin centre south side groups converged at the Dail on Kildare Street.
The crowd of between two and three thousand included 150 marchers from Donnybrook as well as protesters from the Iveagh Trust, Ringsend, York Street and Harold’s Cross. They were addresed by Sinn Fein councillor Chris Andrews, People Before Profit councillor Sonya Stapleton and UCD Sociologist Kieran Allen.
Water bucketed down on some 1,000 protesters as they marched from Clondalkin this afternoon under a canvass of umbrellas on their way to converge with another group of protesters who began their march in Lucan.
The protest, one of the last of 28 planned protests taking place in Dublin, gave protesters a chance to give voice to their anger over the proposed charges, many carrying home-made signs carrying their message:
“Extortion by extortionists,” said one. “From the river to the sea, Irish water will be free,” read another. But most bore one simple message: “We won’t pay”.
Dave Eustace echoed the voice of many who were taking part in protests throughout Dublin and Ireland: water charges were “a step too far”. “This is the issue that woke me up,” he said.
“Michael Noonan coming out last night saying this will be the last of it, if anything that propelled me even more to come out here today, well I have news for him, this isn’t the end of it,” he said.
Connie Gray, who described herself as “a public servant, a mother and a grandmother” said she wasn’t fundamentally opposed to paying for water but said she she said she was “tired of the same people paying for everything every time”.
“I don’t have a problem paying for water, I have a problem paying it to a private company. It may not be private yet but that’s our fear, that it will be”.
In Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin this afternoon at least 1,500 people marched. Among the chants were “from rivers to the sea water should be free.”
“I’ve never seen a protest like it, we had a 5,000 people on the streets here,” Claire Daly TD said from Swords, Co Dublin. People feel they have the Government “on the run” and there is a “real sense of people power,” she told RTE Radio. Swords is a “quiet sleepy suburban area” she said.
Crowds gathered outside the civic offices in Blanchardstown this afternoon as local TD Ruth Coppinger addressed the crowd:
“Water tax is an unjust tax,” she called through the microphone, the crowd echoing her.
By 1.30pm gardai patrolling the march estimated that there were 2,500 people in attendance, however that figure was set to swell as smaller protests from surrounding areas and housing estates making their way to the location in Blanchardstown Town Centre.
Ms Coppinger said the protest “is only building now. This is definitely going to be the biggest march in Blanchardstown in over a decade”.
“We’re building a non-payment campaign for when the bills arrive in January...if these marches don’t force the Government to back down our next weapon our next deadline is January when the bills arrive in people’s homes,” she said adding that a series of local meetings were being planned to further build the campaign.
Outside the Bank of Ireland in the village three generations of the Simpson family carried placards: “People have had enough now, they’ve paid their way,” Debbie Simpson said. “Normally the Irish will roll over but they’re not rolling over on this one.”
Local Paddy Smith said today’s protests were about more than just water charges: “I think it’s an anti-Government protest not just anti-water tax,” he said but said there was huge anger over water tax and the “big boys getting their bonuses”.
“People are angry. This is another undemocratic tax. I don’t feel that we have a democratic country anymore. Nothing is put to the people. Taxes are imposed left right and centre and they turn a blind eye to the people who are homeless and people who can’t put a roof over their heads and they keep putting extra charges on. I just don’t think they’re listening to the people and I think a protest like this might get through to them.”
“They’re just going to have to sit up and listen”.
In Tallaght this morning the voices of the water protestors spanned the generations.
“No way we won’t pay,” a young boy chanted as his mother led him by the hand through the throngs of people who gathered at St Mary’s Dominican Church on the village’s main street before 11am.
The Tallaght protest, one of the first to take place in Dublin, stretched from the traffic lights on the main street back to the Dragon Pub and the crowd was giving full voice to its opposition to the introduction of water charges.
“Enda Kenny not a penny.” “No way Tallaght won’t pay, take it out of Enda Kenny’s pay”.
Marching in Tallaght Brian Boland said the level of anger at the water charges was widespread.
“I’m a pensioner now. It’s just a measure to far, that’s what I call it and I’m not paying it. I paid the property tax all the rest of it. I paid it all all my working life. I’m finished now, I’m not paying anymore. That’s the end of it,” he said.
Yvonne Skelly said people were protesting over the water charges because this issue “is the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
“A very quick Google search will tell you that we already pay €1.2 billion in general taxation towards water so why we have to pay for it twice I have no idea...a lot of people genuinely can’t afford it. They’re at the pin of their collar.
“I’ve been speaking to people who have had to make choices between, ‘do I feed the kids today or do I pay the bills?’I think that’s what’s really mobilised people. And it’s very much grassroots, it’s not a political thing, it’s ordinary people who are coming together.
“The other reason is the totally corrupt way that this has been set up. Enough is enough and I think people need to stand up and tell the Government that they have to be fully transparent and fully accountable in the way their running the country...we have to stand up for this generation and the next generation”.
Senator Katherine Zappone said she was attending the Tallaght march because she supported people’s resistance to pay the water charge although she also noted that some were not opposed to water charge but had serious concerns about the way in which they were being implemented and the speed at which they were being rolled out.
“I’m aware of the fact that many people are, in principle, in favour of paying the water charges but just in light of a lot of the incompetencies, particularly of Irish water that they don’t feel that they should pay now...too much has gone in terms of the governance and the management of the company. I think we need to suspend the whole issue of water charges for now”.
“It’s been too rushed in terms of the legislative process. This Government said it was going to use committees a lot more, often heads of Bill are produced, committees then bring in civil society groups, experts to hear and make recommendations.
“That didn’t happen with Irish Water. I think we should bring back the legislation to be reviewed, to listen to the people....and then to move forward to issues related to charges: whether it is or isn’t a public company...we need to ensure that our water services will always be publicly owned”.