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World

Ireland. Tens of thousands protest in Dublin against water charges

Translated Sunday 3 May 2015, by Adrian Jordan

Tens of thousands of people protested in Dublin on Saturday against the Irish government’s decision to charge for tap water, free until now, considered an abusive measure after years of austerity.

80,000 people protested in Dublin on Saturday against the Irish government’s decision to charge for tap water. "We have one objective and that’s to seek a repudiation of the domestic water charges legislation", declared Brendan Ogle, one of the organisers of the demonstration, the latest in a series which brought together several tens of thousands of people since September. Up to then, tap water was free. The charges are considered abusive after years of austerity.

The first bills, for this year’s first trimester, should reach letterboxes in Ireland next month. For the government, this allows the introduction of “clarity and accessibility” in water billing. But, for the protesters, it amounts to an austerity measure too far when the country has over 10% unemployment and the return of economic growth, which reached 4.8% in 2014, is yet to be felt by a large section of the population.

Among the protesters, many brandished the flag of the opposition and anti-austerity party, Sin Féin. The Socialist Party member of parliament, Ruth Coppinger, called for the crowd not to pay. "In 10 days’ time every family in this country will receive a bill. (...) The only way we can secure the abolition of water charges is by building mass non-payment.” Dublin committed to the introduction of these water charges as a condition of a financial aid plan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU), adopted in 2010 to prevent its economy collapsing.

In November, the government quickly went into reverse over certain issues, notably reducing the amount demanded from Irish households (which will be between 60 and 160 euros) and giving up on measures to charge per cubic meter used. However, it refused to abandon the reform which will bring to an end an exception within the EU which goes back to 1997.


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