Between 60,000 and 180,000 people expected to take to the streets in up to 100 marches against Water Taxes in Ireland on January 31st.
Before the last national protest on December 10th 2014, tens of thousands of Irish people left their homes, groggy-eyed but full of determination and made their way to the capital to protest the introduction of a new water tax, but on January 31st they won’t have to travel quite so far. In a demonstration that mirrors the events of November 1st 2014, up to 200,000 protesters are expected to stage up to one hundred local demonstrations across the country. With protests being organized by various groups and the establishment of the Irish Right2Water campaign, the progress of the the Says No Groups who have flourished around the country and civil disobedience being utilized to prevent installations of meters and to shut down cities and towns, there is no doubt that the protest movement is well planned and stronger than ever.
What pushed the Irish over the edge?
An ever increasing tax bill hanging over the heads of not just the “squeezed middle” but the squeezed Irish population along with the mismanagement of a new semi-sate company has pushed people onto the streets to stand up against the austerity measure that threatens to break the back of the coalition. Some Europeans might argue that they have to pay water taxes, or charges, but in Ireland, the citizens are already paying increased rates of central tax to accommodate the cost of maintaining and upgrading the water supply and infrastructure. Also in 2000, Irish people were given an exemption to the article 9 requirement of the European Commission domestic water directive which requires European governments to charge for domestic water supply, an exemption the current government allowed to expire at the end of 2014.
After having something a kin to an awakening as to how badly damaged and outdated the Irish water system is, Fine Gael and Labour are attempting to convince a growingly savvy population that all of a sudden, they now have to borrow money to cover the cost of the works; oh and that the European Commission is forcing them to take this step. In other words, they are informing us that tax paid towards the Irish water supply has not been spent on the water supply as would be expected and now as a matter of urgency they will need to find €15 billion. How does a state which is already in massive debt and is clocking up more at an approximate rate of €150 million per week gain access to a loan of this size? The answer, set up a semi-private company, but not a well thought out, well implemented, fair, transparent semi-state body along with a reduction of central taxation to recognize new means of paying for water, no instead they created the now infamous Irish Water.
Irish people said relatively passive when faced with massive wage decreases, tax increases, cuts to social welfare and other vital services, but when the issue of water charges hit the headlines, it also hit a nerve with the Irish.
Time after time, Irish Water stepped on the toes of its prospective “clients”, asking for PPS (social security) numbers of adults and children with mandatory registration documents that arrived at the gates of homes around the same time the much hated water meters began to arrive, all before the rates where even decided upon. Soon it became common knowledge that the conservation angle pitched by Irish Water in their first days and weeks was nonsense when experts discussed the use of regional meters as being a more practical to find and manage leaks in the faulty water system.
One of the biggest controversies, and probably one of the least discussed is the allocation of contracts to install meters to homes via the company Sierra, who was awarded the contracted two weeks before being established. Sierra also happens to be owned by dominant Irish business man Denis O’Brien who has been accused of holding a monopoly in Ireland including controlling many of the main media outlet in the small state and having a very close relationship with government.
It was leaked that 27 senior staff were given the luxury of a €10,000 annual car allowance, and that inflated bonuses were planned for staff who had not yet achieved anything other than a failed PR campaign. It became known that it would not be difficult for Irish Water to be privatised and sold onto the market. Legislation was drawn to in a weak attempt to protect the Semi-State from that threat but the measure can be undone by simply changing the legislation again. Bank details of customers were sent to landlords in error, and Irish water were making more retractions and amendments to statements than convincing anyone they were capable of undertaking the task at hand.
So as the world looks on as the fight in the fighting Irish comes back to life, we can only watch and hope the other issues of judicial and policing failures, massive failings across social protection and health, as well as a political system that breeds secrecy and inequality will push more people to join in the fight for change.
Facebook event page for January 31st’s action – Ireland United Against Water Charges
Did you know on December 23rd 2014 €500 Million of Irish money was destroyed yet there was not a headline covering this? This is a step by step guide looking at the 40 year debt which has been imposed on every Irish citizen.This is a direct result of Michael Noonan’s Promissory Note deal where he converted the Promissory Notes into Promissory Bonds. We have mortgaged our children’s future to bail out the bondholders. Your children and your grandchildren have to shoulder this burden. This 8 minute video explains what has been going on. Directed and edited by Marcus Howard.
This story was originally published on Revolution News.