FOLLOWING protests against water charges that brought more than 8,000 people across Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown onto the streets, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has said the Government was now “reviewing all aspects of the charging structure and the operation of Irish Water” and that an announcement would be made “as soon as possible”.
Minister Alan Kelly said he acknowledged mistakes were made by Government in the establishment of the utility.
“Government are listening to the concerns of the people and are determined that the system of charging will be clear, certain and affordable.
“Government is currently reviewing all aspects of the charging structure and the operation of Irish Water with a view to giving people clarity, certainty and confidence in the utility.
“An announcement will be made as soon as possible.”
Nicola Curry, local representative for Dublin South People Before Profit, who was an organiser of the Right2Water Campaign in Dublin 14,16 and 18, said the action was “a massive demonstration of people power…the people are revolting against this unjust double tax and after years of austerity have nothing left to give”.
The protesters spanned all age groups and areas, and as they marched through Dundrum and up to the roundabout at Wesley College before returning to the Luas bridge in Dundrum for a final rally, they chanted “No way, we won’t pay”, and “From the river to the sea, Irish water will be free.”
Sinn Fein councillors Chris Curran and Sorcha Ni Chormaic addressed the crowd as did a number of local residents including ex-Irish Rugby International Trevor Hogan.
Cllr Neale Richmond (FG) said: “I appreciate there are huge concerns in relation to both Irish Water as a fit for purpose provider and the principle of introducing water charges….I support the introduction of water charges and I hope the financial hit will be offset by a number of measures introduced in the budget in October…I fully respect people’s right to protest and I appreciate the severity of the issue at hand.”
In Dun Laoghaire an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people marched, in a show of strength. Cllr Shane O’Brien (SF) said: “Gardai in attendance remarked that it was the biggest march in Dun Laoghaire in modern history.”
Cllr Hugh Lewis (PBP) said: “The people of Dun Laoghaire turned out in their thousands, in an unprecedented display of people power and solidarity. The message is simple, we do not accept water charges, we already pay for water and we will not stop until Fine Gael and Labour reverse their decision to establish Irish Water and introduce these unjust charges.”
Cllr Ossian Smyth (GP) said: “The Green Party is calling for a referendum to guarantee that Ireland’s water resources will never be privatised.
“We are opposed to unmetered flat-rate water charges, which bring no environmental benefit as they do not reward people for conserving water. Such a charge is just a form of poll tax.”
Cllr Michael Merrigan (Ind) said: “People power has finally come to Dun Laoghaire in a tremendously powerful demonstration of the palpable anger and utter betrayal felt by ordinary people at the Government’s introduction of this unjust water tax.”
About 150,000 people took part in 100 demonstrations all over the country against the water charges, the first bills for which are due to reach homes in January 2015.
The Right2Water campaign is to organise further actions in coming weeks. Following the protests, Government discussions regarding Irish Water are ongoing.