The Irish have been protesting water charges for months now – and the international media is taking note.
Yesterday, a homepage story for the New York Times shed light on the continuing struggle between the Irish government and the thousands of Irish citizens who have been staunchly against the planned introduction of water charges.
“Until now, Ireland had been the poster child for German-led austerity policies. Its citizens offered little resistance as their government — grappling with huge debts from the country’s failed banks — introduced new taxes and increased old ones, even while laying off workers and slashing health and welfare benefits,” the paper noted.
“In recent months, however, the Irish have been anything but quiet. The prospect of paying for water, which many see as yet another new tax at a time when the government has assured them that austerity is over, has prompted a series of mass protests across the country, from Dublin to Cork. Many demonstrators say they have no intention of paying the new fees.”
The in-depth expose explained that one third of the households in Ireland have refused to register. It also marked the apparent surprise with which Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael government has met the public’s widespread anger.
The initial plan was to install water meters across the country and charge citizens based on usage. Due to the uproar, the government backtracked on this and pledged to keep rates the same – in most cases no more than $285 each year – through 2018.
But for many people this still isn’t an answer. “We are not paying it. We don’t have it,” said Sarah Murphy, a resident of Ballymun, Dublin whose family of five lives on $73 a week after paying the rent and electricity bills.
Speaking with Paul Murphy, the Socialist TD elected largely due to his opposition of the water charges, the Times suggested that the water charges initiative could be brought to a standstill if the majority of people refuse to pay.
The water protests have also caught the attention of the Detroit Water Brigaide in Detroit, MI which has an ongoing campaign of protests against their city for shutting off the water supply to 27,000 homes which did not pay their bills in the midst of a deep recession.
A group from Detroit joined the massive Dublin protest in December that drew close to 100,000 people.