Thousands of people are protesting against water charges across the country today.
More than 30 separate protests are taking place in 21 locations, including Donegal, Dublin, Cork, Louth and Limerick.
In Cork city, thousands gathered in the city centre.
“Nobody has a problem paying for water if it’s done right, but people are afraid that it will be privatised and turned into a money-making exercise,” said Mark O’Connor from Togher in the city.
— EchoLive.ie (@echolivecork) January 23, 2016
“I’m here to protect my children’s future, and to show my kids that it’s good to stand up for what you believe in,” said Kerrie Collins from Watergrasshill who attended the protest with her two young sons.
Jonathan O’Brien, Sinn Fein TD for Cork North Central said that the march was no longer just about water charges but was also about austerity.
“People have had enough,” he said.
Strong turnout at Galway anti-austerity protest. Tune in at 5 for more. pic.twitter.com/PCXvymOL1m— Galway Bay fm News (@Galwaybayfmnews) January 23, 2016
The Right2Water Campaign, which is organising the demonstrations, says it wants to keep the issue on the agenda ahead of the General Election.
The group's David Gibney says the issue has not gone away, and Government ministers are wrong if they think it has.
— Mick Caul (@caulmick) January 23, 2016
Ahead of the main events, a number of campaigners staged a picket at the Fine Gael Ard Fhéis in Citywest in Dublin.
Campaign spokesman and general secretary of the Mandate union John Douglas said the controversial water charges should be at the top of the agenda for the forthcoming General Election.
“We promised over a year and a half ago that we would make water charges the number one issue for this election and today’s set of demonstrations is a step towards that objective,” he said.
“Water charges are an unfair imposition on the public and they serve no purpose other than a transfer of wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest in our society and they’re also about lining up the future privatisation of our water services.”
— 𝕂𝕖𝕚𝕥𝕙 𝔾𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕚𝕘𝕒𝕟 🇮🇪 (@CeiteachG) January 23, 2016
The largest protest was staged in Dublin outside the GPO on O’Connell Street.
Right2Water, backed by trade unions including Mandate, Unite, the Communication Workers’ Union, power union the TEEU, and the Civil and Public Services Union, plans to follow the latest rallies with another major demonstration on the Saturday before the election day.
It also plans a high profile conference with a panel of international speakers at the height of the election campaign.
Right2Water’s latest campaign centres on claims that households use 10% of water produced in the country compared with big business and agriculture but they pay nearly 80% of costs.
It has also attacked Irish Water figures which found 61% of customers have paid a bill.
Right2Water claims Irish Water should have taken in €225m in charges to date but has only collected €110m and it has spent €80m on conservation grants.
At the last major rally last August, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Dublin.