Water charges march a ‘tipping point’ after ‘years of hurt’

Grassroots campaign shows 'huge anger' and 'massive revolt against this Government'

Joan Burton: Brendan Ogle of the Unite union said she should apologise for “getting up in the Dáil like Marie Antoinette and insinuating if people can afford a phone they should pay for water”

Joan Burton: Brendan Ogle of the Unite union said she should apologise for “getting up in the Dáil like Marie Antoinette and insinuating if people can afford a phone they should pay for water”

 

Saturday’s march through Dublin will be seen as the “tipping point” into “a massive revolt against this Government”, say those involved in the Right2Water campaign.

While organisers had hoped 20,000 would turn up to the anti-water charges march, the numbers that did stunned everyone. Perhaps five times the anticipated numbers converged in the biggest show of people power the capital has seen in years.

The route had to be lengthened for public order and safety and one full hour after the march started, marchers were still flowing down into O’Connell Street from Parnell Square, carrying banners from working class estates across Dublin as well as from communities across the country.

“It is a tipping point,” said Brendan Ogle of the Unite union, one of the groups involved. “It was a protest against water charges but it was also about six years of hurt, six years where the forces of austerity have pushed and pushed and pushed, and the people just cannot, and will not, take any more.”

While marchers expressed huge anger at the Government, there was a particular level of rage directed at the Labour Party and especially the Tánaiste Joan Burton.

“It is tragic,” said Mr Ogle, “that it is the leader of the Labour Party that has become the figure of ridicule among what should be Labour Party voters.” He said Ms Burton should apologise for “getting up in the Dáil like Marie Antoinette and insinuating if people can afford a phone they should pay for water”.

Though the Right2Water campaign is spearheaded by an alliance of left-wing political groups including the Anti-Austerity Alliance and the People Before Profit Alliance (PBP), and trade unions including Mandate and Unite, these groups stress it is a grassroots movement which has grown organically in communities up and down the country. Saturday’s march was first mooted in early summer, and momentum has grown since.

TD Richard Boyd Barrett (PBP) says street meetings have been called in communities where water meters were being installed, which has led to political mobilisation on a new scale.

“I attended eight meetings around Dún Laoghaire in the last fortnight and there have been over 800 at them. I was at one in Tipperary where there were 200; one in Rush where there were about 70. There has been massive mobilisation though Facebook and social media and I am very optimistic that it will be maintained.”

 

Getting active

Though Right2Water’s stance is that people should decide whether to pay water charges or not, the mood on the march appeared to be that people should neither sign up with Irish Water nor pay charges.

 

The next big mobilisation is planned for Saturday, November 1st, with local demonstrations organised by local groups.

“People’s inhibitions about getting involved, getting active, are gone,” says Dublin City councillor Michael O’Brien (Anti-Austerity Alliance). “They understand the Government is weak, the Labour Party is being peeled away and if we keep chip, chip, chipping, seismic political shifts are happening.”