Irish Water ‘application packs’ will be burned as part of an anti-water charges protest in Galway this weekend, which could see thousands of people take to streets as momentum against the unpopular tax grows.
The mood is increasingly turning sour against the highly controversial quango, and this week saw a leading Galway TD demand that Irish Water “be scrapped in the public interest”. Meanwhile a prominent Fianna Fáil city councillor has called IW an “unmitigated disaster” and accused it of “incompetency and ineptitude”.
The Say No to Water Charges and Privatisation protest, organised by Right2Water Galway, is part of a nationwide day of demonstration, taking place this Saturday, to build on the momentum created by the 100,000 strong march in Dublin on October 10 and last week’s 10,000 strong march in Limerick against water charges.
The protest will assembles on Saturday at 1pm at the Spanish Arch and marches to Eyre Square for 2pm. Organisers are expecting a large crowd, with protesters drawn from residents associations, estate and community groups, as well as individuals. The We Won’t Pay campaign and Galway Lockout will also be involved.
Speeches will be heard and there will be performances by Queen Elvis, Cula Bula, and award winning poet Sarah Clancy, and street theatre. There will be ‘water deity’ puppets, balloons, and shakers for children.
“We are calling on all local communities to organise another massive show of people power,” said Breege Burke of R2W Galway. “Everyone living in Ireland will be robbed of public water, and charges will be imposed regardless of ability to pay if Fine Gael-Labour’s water policy succeeds.”
We Won’t Pay is calling on members of the public to bring Irish Water applications packs to the Spanish Arch for a public burning.
“We intend to show the Government and Local TDs just what we think of these charges,” said Conor Burke of the Anti-Austerity Alliance. “The Government is clearly rattled by the scale of opposition, now is the time to press our advantage and keep up the pressure, our message to local TDs is clear we will not back down until water charges are abolished outright.”
While opposition to the water charges has been led by the Left, centre and centre-right politicians are also coming out against Irish Water and the water tax.
Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish said there are far too many causes for concern and too many unanswered questions surrounding IW and water charges, and that the entire enterprise has created “fear and anger”.
“There are so many areas of concern,” he said, “the extra and unknown cost of individual bills; the cost when there are a number of adults or children over 18 living in the home; the massive call-out fees; ability to pay; the fear of leaks. People are angry given the amount it cost to set up Irish Water, the salaries, the consultants fees, the bonus payment structure.”
Dep Grealish said the Government was unwise to hand over a State asset to a semi-private company.
“A monopoly is never good news for the consumer or in this case the Irish taxpayer,” he said. “It’s time for the responsibility for our water services to be taken back into full State control and looked after by each local council.”
Fianna Fáil city councillor Ollie Crowe is calling for the suspension of water fees, following the “incompetency and ineptitude from almost all connected with” Irish Water.
Cllr Crowe said the IW bonus scheme was “beyond absurd” and that the hiring of former county managers who had received large payoffs and pensions when retiring was a “disgrace”.
He also said the Government needs to hold a referendum to insert a Constitutional guarantee that water services will not be privatised.
“The ambiguous nature of the legislation means this is a possibility and whilst the Government may offer guarantees it won’t happen,” he said. “We already have numerous examples of how quickly guarantees can be forgotten by this Government.”