ANOTHER mass protest is being planned for Limerick on November 29 as water tax protestors vow to keep up the pressure.
Organisers said around 4,000 people had braved the driving rain for a rally on Bedford Row on Saturday, although gardai at Henry Street estimated the crowd at no more than 1,500. They had converged on Bedford Row after four separate marches in the driving rain from the Treaty Stone, Punches Cross, Claughaun GAA Club and Westbury Shopping Centre.
It came a week after a protest that brought over 6,000 people on to the streets of Limerick.
And there was a sense among demonstrators on Saturday that the popular dissent was beginning to pay off.
“The government is already indicating that they will have to have a look at this again and might be looking at more tax credits or allowances. But that won’t go far enough. The protests won’t stop until they are scrapped,” said John Carey, Corbally.
“And even if they don’t scrap them, people are still not going to pay. They are not going to jail hundreds and thousands of people,” said Mr Carey, who said he had never attended a protest before in his life.
“This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. People are sick of it,” he said.
There were plenty of werewolf and witch costumes to be seen during a demonstration that took place the day after Halloween. And protestors looking to scare the government into abolishing the charge focused in particular on Michael Noonan.
Cllr John Loftus, whose Anti-Austerity Alliance along with trade unions did most of the work on the Limerick protest, accused the Minister for Finance of treating people with contempt.
“Michael Noonan said today would be just our last chance to demonstrate against the charges. If that is not ignorance and contempt for the people or Ireland, I don’t know what is,” Cllr Loftus said.
Alan Casey, a gas fitter from Minister Noonan’s estate of Gouldavoher, told the crowd he had got involved in the campaign after learning of the involvement of one of tycoon Denis O’Brien’s companies in installing meters for Irish Water.
“Like dry sticks on hot burning embers, I was off and I wasn’t going to be stopped - putting up posters, handing out flyers, going to meetings and anything I could do to help,” said Mr Casey, who organised the march from Punches Cross.
He urged everyone to put in a similar effort in the weeks ahead in order to defeat the charges.
Mr Casey said he was not a member of any political party, as did Joanne Mulcahy from Corbally, who appeared an old hand at getting a crowd going.
Ms Mulcahy, mother to a teenage daughter, told the crowd that when she heard about lead in the water supply in Ballynanty and Kileely, she had decided to get her own supply tested.
“The result I got back was shocking. The water coming out of my taps is almost 11 times over the limit. Straightaway, I got on to Irish Water and the council and their tests also confirmed the water was way above the limit. However, the also told me they wouldn’t do anything to help as I am in private rented accommodation and I would still have to pay the charges come January,” she said.
She claimed she had been advised by the council to run her tap for 10 minutes before using the water, a procedure which would “fill 10 five-litre drums” when conservation was supposed to be the object. She would also have to pay for the wasted water.
“I am not going to pay my water charges. Not a hope,” she declared.
“My water is unfit for human consumption. I am worried about the lead. You don’t know what it could do to your health down the road. I have a young daughter. I am definitely not paying for it.”
As well as AAA and Sinn Fein councillors, the protest was attended by Fianna Fail’s Deputy Niall Collins.
“I’m here to support people who can’t pay,” said the Limerick TD.
“The Fianna Fail policy has always been to recognise people’s inability to pay. I think the government have got this consistently wrong from the start. We in Fianna Fail led the opposition in walking out of the Dail in opposition to Irish Water.
“Irish Water is a gold-plated, bonus-driven superquango that is going to heap completely unjust charges on top of people who can’t afford them. They need to step back from it and reassess and fix the network as a first step and then engage with people about how you fund water supply,” said Deputy Collins.
Another mass rally will take place in Limerick on November 29, the eve of the extended deadline four householders to register with Irish Water.