Higgins claims water charge concessions not enough

Socialist Party TD says public opposed to charges as a whole, not individual costs

The Government has missed the point of recent anti-water charge protests by offering concessions, as the public is opposed to Irish Water charges as a whole rather than individual costs, Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins has said.

Mr Higgins said the Government was “reeling” as a result of the opposition to the charges and its “scramble” to ease public anger was pointless as there was “no carrot big enough” to do so.

“These so-called concessions are not going to stem the opposition because what people have been out demonstrating against is commodifying water and charging [for it], rather than having a progressive central taxation system, which is how they want to pay for water,” he said.

Mr Higgins was speaking at a press conference in Dublin where he and his party colleagues Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy called for a national mass boycott of the charges once bills start arriving next year, which they have called the We Won't Pay campaign.


When put to him that previous calls to boycott bin charges and property tax had been unsuccessful, Mr Higgins said he believed the best precedent was the mid-1990s anti-water charge campaign which forced the government at the time to abolish the proposal.

The campaign was much broader and deeper now than at that time, he said, adding that registration was “not the critical thing” and many people who had signed up did not intend to pay.

Mr Murphy, who has been criticised for his role in a weekend protest in Jobstown in Dublin which saw Tánaiste Joan Burton trapped in her car for more than two hours, said the concessions being offered by Government were a “temporary discount”. He predicted that “huge levels” of water charges would be introduced after about four years.

‘Dominant issue’

Mr Murphy said he believed water charges will be the “dominant issue” in the next general election campaign and that he did not believe the Government would have the doggedness to bring people to court for non-payment.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday called on Mr Murphy to apologise to Ms Burton for how she was treated during the protest on Saturday. Mr Murphy said he had no intention of doing so.

“I have nothing to apologise for,” he said. “I participated in a protest alongside my constituents about water charges. It was an angry protest and people have a right to be angry considering what Joan Burton and the Government have done to working class communities.”

Mr Murphy said an apology should be coming from Ms Burton to the people who voted for Labour in 2011 "on the commitment they were opposed to water charges and that it would be 'Labour's way, not Frankfurt's way'".

The Government is expected to place a permanent cap on the charges which is likely to mean there is little pressure on households to conserve water.

Mr Higgins said the “Government’s alleged concern [about conservation] had been shown to be utterly bogus”.

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll is an Assistant News Editor with The Irish Times