Thousands march in protest against water charges

If Tánaiste Joan Burton is not regretting her "expensive phones" comment yet, she may well be this morning.

One of the biggest cheers by thousands of water charge protesters in Dublin came in response to a call to post ‘protest selfies’ to the Tánaiste, made by the People Before Profit Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett.

“We will not let them steal our water, our resources, and sell them back to us,” he declared, prompting further applause.

Those that heard the speeches delivered in front of the GPO on Saturday were in the minority however, as the protest stretched back along its route over O’Connell Bridge towards the Dáil. Reports suggest that at one point, the protest stretched from Parnell Square to Leinster House. Whatever the actual turnout (the organisers claim 100,000) it’s clear that the massive numbers were a major surprise.

Banners, flags and camera phones filled the air while protesters chanted a colourful collection of slogans such as: “From the river to the sea, Irish water will be free.”

In the sunny Dublin sunshine, the atmosphere was upbeat and jovial, protesters were courteous to those not taking part and respectful of each other despite representing a cross section of society. Protesters spanned all ages and travelled from all over the country. Boo’s were reserved for trade union bosses and Denis O’Brien, whose company Siteserv won the State contract to install water meters.

Anti-water charge campaigner Aisling O’Neill from Meath, who ran as an Independent candidate in the 2014 local elections, said the protest was a phenomenal show of support.

“The charges will be fought by those who can’t pay and by those who stand with them, and won’t pay. The Irish people are finished paying.

“We will not be filling out forms, we’ll not be paying bills, Ireland is not for sale,” she said.

Dublin City Cllr Daithí Doolan (SF) said the protest sent out a message of solidarity to the people of Detroit, where city authorities cut off water services to unpaid accounts.

Saturday’s protest made headlines in Iran, Russia and Sydney. The protest signals a new phase in the fight against water charges, according to the Workers’ Party.

Audrey Clancy, of the Edenmore Says No campaign hailed a movement of ‘mass non compliance of payments’ and urged people to stand up for their children.

“I won’t let my family suffer any more at the hands of this government,” she said.

Denis Boyle, an Independent candidate in the 2014 local elections, travelled from Bandon. Brandishing his ‘Hands off my stop cock’ placard, he said he has no intention of paying water charges.

“This is about consent, when you sign on the dotted line you are consenting to their demands, you might as well tell them you are happy to hand over your money,” he said.

Mr Boyle continues to refuse to pay property tax.

“I’m just one individual standing up for my own rights. If people want to roll over and be sheep they are entitled to,” he said.

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