Barely concealed fury as public take to the streets  over government water  fiasco.

Sligo News File Online. 

Braving atrocious weather conditions thousands of all ages turned out across the country to demonstrate against water charges. Almost every town and village was represented at rallies where total turnout has been put at over 180,000. In the west, people were converging from early on at assembly points in Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon, Boyle, Roscommon, Castlebar and numerous other local and regional locations. A major surprise was Ballina where the number reportedly swelled to upwards of 5,000.

For the government, the message could not be clearer: IT IS TIME TO STEP DOWN. Barely concealed fury was evident as protesters took to the streets to show their opposition to a Coalition that has turned the lives of families into a living nightmare.

Soup kitchens have had to be opened to feed men, women and children whose social conditions have been reduced to penury under a Fine Gael-Labour partnership that has taken the country to hell. Food banks are planned while ministers try to talk up Ireland as the fastest growing economy in Europe.

Older people and sick elderly are dying or suffering because they cannot afford to heat their homes. Hospital and care services are in chaos. Incomes of whole swathes of the working population are at rock bottom, and even at that the government is plundering incomes for more taxes, more charges, more levies.

As every local and national politician of the government parties is now well aware, today’s show of mass revulsion is not just about charges for water services or Irish Water squandering of money forced from the pockets of the people, it is also in at least equal measure about government cosseting of the rich, the well heeled, the multinationals at the expense of the hard pressed, the worst off financially and otherwise.

Water is one of our last remaining public commons. It is a precious asset. However, it is also a massively valuable asset powerful vested interests want to see ownership of in the hands of the same kind of speculative financier class that has already stripped the country to the bone.

We have seen where local authorities have moved in to take possession of group water schemes for transfer to the calamitous Irish Water service which Fianna Fail agreed to introduce, together with property tax on people’s homes, in a deal done with the infamous ‘Troika.’ Local councilors voted through the takeover of the schemes. Although worth millions of euro, and built on funds put up by local communities, members have not been offered even a cent in compensation for the infrastructure.

Across in Riverstown, a community is mobilising after discovering that Sligo County Council has handed over century old water pumps to the Irish Water utility. Where does the stripping of community assets stop? Oil, gas, fisheries, beet industry, state organisations, all sold off or handed away by one rotten government after another.

The present Fine Gael-Labour ‘combo’ would like people to believe Irish Water was rowed out with the aim of bringing greater efficiency to the country’s water services, and about the conservation of water resources. To that people are bluntly replying ‘bullshit.’ Even the dogs in the street know that our water resources – including, longer term, the wells, ponds and underground water in private lands – are being ‘packaged’ for privatisation, for sale to global multinationals.

A few nights ago, a Fine Gael TD panelist on the Vincent Browne show was thought to say farmers were not opposed to charges for water. The fact is they are, and as prices for water rise more and more smaller farmers will be forced out of the industry because they will not be able to pay the bills.

Another less publicised fact is that, in Sligo, domestic users of group water schemes had a free water allowance amounting to 50,000 gallons per household annually – it was a volume the City and County Managers Association deemed households needed for normal domestic usage. This has now been slashed by 46,000 gallons to roughly 6,000 gallons per year. As well, the charges for water, if not blocked, are set to skyrocket in the next few years.

The call now made for our water to be placed under constitutional protection is not a demand confined to the political left alone; it is the demand of virtually every citizen of this country. In the present political environment, it also is a safeguard that must now be worked towards, and implemented through a referendum with the greatest possible urgency.