Thousands Protest to Repeal ‘Unworkable’ Water Tax

Protestors demand 'immoral' tax be watered down
November 12, 2014 Updated: November 13, 2014

“Kenny Kenny Kenny—not a penny! Enda hear us loud and clear—we don’t want your charges here! From the rivers to the sea—Irish water will be free!” So rang out the melody of chants as a procession of over 5,000 protestors flowed through Swords in North Dublin during a recent water protest.

Deputy Clare Daly TD of the United Left Alliance was there to support the event. “I think it is very important that every citizen makes a stand to let the government know that they have no mandate for these charges, and that the sooner they abolish them, the better,” said Daly. “People are out on the streets and they have no intention of going back until this is sorted properly.” 

Commenting on nationwide events where attendances have been estimated at well over 100,000, Daly said: “What we will demonstrate as part of this movement is that people in every county in the country have had enough. That they are not going to lie down, and that the government really has to…take note that you can’t govern without the people.

“If a tax is unworkable, then they should withdraw it,” she said. “We are here as part of a campaign to do that, and if they don’t do that, then we will be back out on the streets in December and January—and we won’t be paying these bills. The sooner they cop that, the better.”

Like many on the march, Deputy Daly believes that Irish citizens are already paying for water through the central taxation system and, therefore, that water charges mean double taxation. “We have paid, and it’s a case of not paying twice,” she said. 

With respect to the difference between the public’s reaction to the water and property taxes, Daly said: “They brought the Revenue in [to enforce the property tax]—which was the big bully-boy tactic—so people felt that they didn’t have any control over the situation. That’s changed now: clearly people now do think that they can exercise change, and because the Revenue is not involved, they can’t disconnect people’s water. It’s a case of people seizing the power for themselves. It may be because of the property tax that people are so mad now.” 

Local Reaction

Fran Barker, a retired psychologist from the North Dublin suburb, said: “I’m all my life living in Swords, and I have never seen anything like this before—it’s a whole new thing. Elected representatives of all political colours would be crazy not to listen to the people when they see this.” 

Barker added that he believed that this was one tax too much on Irish society. “We have had a very difficult number of years, and this is the straw that’s breaking the camel’s back. I’m hoping that the government might listen, because they are not getting the message. They are still talking about mucking around with charges and tax rebates, but that’s not what the people want. They just want the end of Irish Water, and no charge for water.”

In a protest characterised by the exemplary behaviour of the protestors, mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents were all united in their belief that the water charge was just too much, with many echoing Fran Barker’s description of the charges as the proverbial straw that would break their backs. 

Many of the people The Epoch Times spoke to were on their very first protest—some weren’t too sure what to do, with some even too self-conscious to chant! However, it seemed that they felt that it was their duty to turn up to support a cause they felt needed supporting. 

Get up, stand up

Nicola O’Connor from Malahide, a social media employee, said: “I’m just showing my support for the people who organised the protest. The whole publicity and PR around this charge has been a total disaster. Paying bonuses when everyone is to the pin of their collar is ridiculous. It’s great to see people coming out, because I think we are quite a passive nation. We don’t tend to protest—for me, personally, this is my first protest.”

For others, it has taken many years for them to be riled up enough to take to the streets again. 

“I haven’t been on a march since the ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher—out, out, out’ days when I was a student,” said Graham Kelly, a company director from Dublin. “I think it’s wrong what they have done. I don’t mind paying for water, but I think the way they have gone about it has been sneaky and underhand. The whole PPS thing—I think it is a Trojan horse for data mining…It takes a lot to get me angry, but I’m angry about this.”  

For others it was a matter of setting an example for their children, and explaining to them that sometimes, you have to stand up for what you believe. 

Michelle Quinn and Claudine Woods from Swords came to set a good example. “I just came out to show my children that it’s right to demonstrate against something that you don’t agree with,” said Quinn. “Mainly I came for the kids—to show them that they need to stand up for their rights and be counted. I also feel that if I don’t come out, I can’t really give out about the charge. If you talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.”

She added that in principle, she believed in paying for water services. “I agree to a certain extent to a small charge per household, but at the moment we don’t know where we stand. It’s like a figure being picked out of the air. If we were sure how much it’s going to cost us, maybe we wouldn’t be here today. Maybe people would say that it’s fair enough.”

Speaking for Others 

William Redmond, a taxi driver from Dublin, said his mother is 75 years of age and on a widow’s pension, and he believes that there is no way she is going to be able to pay this tax. “There is no way she can fight this government, she’s too old. So I think it’s up to the younger people of this country to go out and fight for their mothers and fathers who can’t fight this government. The old people are running scared because of this: They don’t know if they can get food in or put their heating on—that’s how serious this is. But these guys up top don’t realise because it doesn’t really affect them. Austerity never affected them from day one, and it still doesn’t,” said Redmond.

Not just won’t pay, but can’t pay 

The overwhelming sentiment on the day was that people just couldn’t afford to pay the water charges. Michael McCann, a school teacher from Balrothery in Dublin, said: “The government have always said that they have had to make difficult decisions, but to me there are no difficult decisions—there are just decisions, and what makes them difficult is the fact that the government knows that these decisions are immoral, but they continue to go ahead and do them anyway. To me this is the last stand—I won’t take any more of this, and that’s why I’m protesting today.”