Photo by BreakingNews.ie.
Photo by BreakingNews.ie.

More than 100,000 people marched in Dublin yesterday against austerity imposed water charges in Ireland. The Guardian reports, "Tens of thousands of demonstrators opposed to the introduction of water charges in Ireland surrounded the country’s parliament bringing Dublin to a near standstill."

Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow provides the background for the protest in her book Blue Future. She writes, "In May 2011 the government of Ireland signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to reform its water sector to comply with strict new austerity measures. The government then established a public water utility called Irish Water, with a clear mandate to operate as a private company. In exchange for an 85-billion-euro bailout for the country, the MOU required that 'public provision of water services is to end and this function is to be transferred to a utility company', and it further committed Ireland to move toward full cost recovery through water metering. Water resources are abundant in Ireland, and until the creation of the new utility, water services for residents had been delivered free of charge. Costs were paid for through tax revenues and by charging commercial users."

Yesterday's protest follows 100,000 people marching in Dublin on October 11 and 150,000 people rallying across the country on November 1.

The mass mobilizations have had an impact. The International Business Times notes, "In November the Fine Gael-Labour coalition was forced to cap the charges at €160 [$228] for single adult households and €260 [$371] for all other residents, in the face of the protests. Meanwhile, eligible households will receive water conservation grants of €100 [$142] a year, which will reduce their bills." The Belfast Telegraph adds, "Originally the government had suggested the levy would be up to €600 [$856] a year for some families." But the charges will only be capped until 2018 and right to water organizers have rejected these as insufficient concessions demanding instead that water metering be scrapped entirely.

The water charges are due to come into force on January 31, 2015 with the first bills to be issued in April 2015.

The Irish Times reports, "Organisers of yesterday’s Right2Water protest demonstration, which caused considerable disruption in Dublin city centre, have pledged to step up their campaign in the New Year." The next major protest is expected to take place on January 31.

It is believed that the water charges have doomed the Fine Gael-Labour party coalition government which faces a general election before April 3, 2016. The Guardian notes, "Both ruling parties’ fortunes have plummeted in recent opinion polls, with Sinn Féin and independents gaining most support from the public ire over the water charges."

The Blue Planet Project stands in solidarity with the water justice and anti-austerity movements in Ireland.

Further reading
IMF bailout means water charges for Irish homes (June 2011 blog)
Massive right to water protests take place in Ireland (October 2014 blog)
Blue Planet Project in solidarity with Irish right to water protests (October 2014 blog)
Windsor chapter says from Detroit to Dublin water is a human right (November 2014 blog)

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