Ministers decry anti-water protest ‘thuggery’

Cabinet members condemn Jobstown protest and say Socialist Party’s Paul Murphy has questions to answer

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The eve of the crucial Cabinet meeting today to approve a simpler and less expensive water charge system was dominated by sharp disputes about tactics used by anti-water protesters in targeting Government Ministers.

A succession of Government Ministers yesterday deplored the protest in Tallaght on Saturday, at which Tánaiste Joan Burton was trapped in her car for over two hours after being hit by a water balloon while entering a graduation ceremony in a local centre.

A brick was also thrown towards the end of the event and two youths were arrested. There were also disputed claims that protesters tried to overturn Ms Burton’s car.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny likened what had occurred to a hostage situation and was one of several senior Government ministers who contended that Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy, who was involved in the protest, had questions to answer about the manner in which protesters had besieged Ms Burton.

Defended participation

Mr MurphyJoe HigginsRuth Coppinger

Responding on RTÉ to the charge from Labour Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin that it was “mob rule”, Mr Murphy said he completely rejected that allegation.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was also greeted by angry protesters as he arrived for an event in Limerick yesterday.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said yesterday the Government would never be able to convince what he described as “Marxist-Leninists” of the need for water charges and accused protesters in Dublin’s Jobstown at the weekend of “thuggery”.

Mr Varadkar said it was important to distinguish between the Jobstown protesters and the thousands who had previously taken part in peaceful demonstrations around the country because they were concerned about affordability, privacy and privatisation.

“I think the Government will be able to answer those concerns in the next couple of days,” he said.

“For people who are ideologically opposed to water metering and want to bring about a Marxist-Leninist republic in Ireland, we’re never going to convince them, quite frankly, and we’re not going to try.”

The Green Party yesterday hosted a conference at the Mansion House in which a discussion took place on the party’s proposal for a referendum enshrining the right to water in Bunreacht na hÉireann. Siptu president Jack O’Connor was among the speakers.

Speaking afterwards, party leader Eamon Ryan argued: “This campaign now has the wind at its back. We’ve taken an idea, and seen it explode online, and in the Dáil and Seanad. I thank Jack O’Connor for his union’s support in putting this issue on the national agenda, and look forward to working with him over the coming months.”

Revised package

Sinn Féin and the smaller left-wing parties are opposed to any charges and want them scrapped.

Fianna Fáil will hold a party meeting today and is expected to oppose the measures but in a more qualified manner, on the basis that the principle of charging for water has been implemented in a “disastrous” manner.