More than 80,000 Irish protested in Dublin Saturday against the planned introduction of municipal water charges.
The massive crowd flooded the Irish capital, with some protesters carrying placards reading, “Scrap fraud water charges or collapse next election.”
The march was the fifth major protest against water charges in the past 12 months, organized by the umbrella group of social movements and unions, Right2Water. Ireland first began billing residents for water in April by the state sponsored company Irish Water, in line with a condition imposed on the Irish government as part of its 2010 bailout package. Ireland's troika of international creditors, the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, ordered the charges to boost taxes. However, critics say the charges will hurt poor and working class Irish, while being relatively gentle on the rich.
Speaking at a press conference for the Right2Water campaign, union leader John Douglas said the new water charges are “just the tip of the austerity iceberg.”
“Ireland is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world where hundreds of thousands of us struggle to just get by … at the same time, a relatively small few flourish in barely imaginable wealth,” he said.
Dee Quinlan from the CPSU likewise accused the government of forcing taxpayers to “pay for the sins of the property speculators, top-tier bankers, center right politicians and their pursuit of the policies of austerity.”
Quinlan continued, “If we accept these charges and recognize Irish Water, we are then in acceptance of the inevitable privatization of water in this country. If the end goal of this unfair policy is not privatization, then why is our government stubbornly refusing to hold a referendum to enshrine ownership of our water services in the hands of the public?”