Water charge leaders say protests will force reversal of charges

Figures put crowd on Dublin streets at between 30,000 and 100,000 people

The numbers who attended the Right2Water protest in Dublin city centre will eventually force the Government to reverse water charges, the leaders of the campaign have said.

Over a dozen political, trade union and civic society leaders addressed the crowd from the main stage at the main rallying point in Merrion Square, outside the easterly gates of Leinster House.

Estimates varied of how many took part in the day of protest against Irish Water, and the charges that will be introduced from next Spring. The official Garda estimate was put at 30,000 plus.

The union leader Brendan Ogle of Unite queried this and said it was easily 70,000 to 80,000. Later in the afternoon the Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy claimed some 100,000 people had protested on the streets of Dublin during the day.


But most estimates from commentators, and those reporting on the event, put the figures at between 30,000 to 40,000.

Independent left-wing TD Clare Daly specifically referred to the size of the crowd in her speech: “This is indeed what democracy looks like. We are living in a moment that changed ireland,” she told the crowd in the afternoon. .

She also declared to loud cheers: “Irish Water is already dead. We are here to bury it.”

Addressing the crowd, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams praised what he called "people power" and said that Irish Water and water charges both needed to be scrapped. "I want to commend every single person here. You have been able to stand for yourselves but for s scores of thousands of people who have not been able to be here this day," he said. "What the Government has done is not good enough. The Government has to scrap water charges".

Mr Murphy called on the crowd to organise a campaign of non payment of water charges when the first bills arrive in February. Later he said the sheer size of the crowd would give [Taoiseach] Enda Kenny food for thought and the continuing campaign would force the Government to abolish Irish water.

Richard Boyd Barrett told the crowd, to huge cheers, that enough was enough. He said it was important to sustain the momentum after the protest.

He urged those present to attend the next nationwide protest which will be held on January 31.

A number of Independent TDs attended the rally including Catherine Murphy, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Michael Healy Rae and John Hannigan. Among the speakers was also a spokesman for the republican splinter party, Éirigí.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said that all sections of society were represented at the protest. “The Government is now on notice and must go,” she said. She added that the Government though that “by giving minor concessions that the people of this country could be bought off. They were wrong.”

The People Before Profit councillor Bríd Smith urged members of the crowd to stay in Merrion Square and not to join a secondary protest which was assembling on O’Connell Street. “There’s only on Right2Water demonstration today,” she said. Ms Smith called for a new nationwide protest in January. “The people will face you down Enda Kenny,” she said.

The protest was also attended by a number of singer-songwriters and performers including Glenn Hansard and Damien Dempsey. Mr Dempsey said that a referendum was needed now. "We have to get it into the Constitution that they cannot privatise our water," he said.

The two were among a number of musicians who played from the stage during the course of the afternoon and both duetted on the Brendan Behan-composed song ‘The Auld Triangle’.


Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times