LIMERICK councillors are jostling to appease the thousands of voters furious at Irish Water, with a range of different proposals set to be discussed at a key meeting in County Hall this Thursday.
It comes after up to 10,000 people demonstrated against water charges in the city in the space of a fortnight – with a similar protest in Abbeyfeale drawing 400 people in atrocious weather conditions, plus a high turnout in Ballylanders on Saturday.
And another big demonstration is being planned for the city on Saturday, November 29, the new deadline to register with the state water utility.
Sinn Fein, whose six council members called the special meeting have lodged a notice of motion with the council to call on the government to immediately stop water charges, stop the installation of meters across the country, and “listen to the widespread public anger that exists towards Irish Water”.
Fianna Fail is set to lodge a counter-motion proposing that Irish Water be disbanded, and control of water be handed back to Limerick City and County Council.
Notably, they will not call for the abolition of water rates, despite Fianna Fail Cathaoirleach Kevin Sheahan, and local councillor Kieran O’Hanlon joining the first march through the city two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, a senior Fine Gael source said they are unlikely to make their own proposal on the water crisis at the 10.30am meeting.
Sinn Fein’s proposal is arguably the most radical of the two, with Abbeyfeale-based councillor Seamus Browne saying: “We need to put money back in people’s pockets so they can spent in their local communities, in their local towns and shops, so they can put money back into their local economy and create local jobs”.
While the AAA will most likely support the motion, they are unlikely to get backing from the two largest parties at council.
A Fianna Fail source said: “I listened to Gerry Adams this morning, and it would appear Sinn Fein got together and dictated all the councillors put down this motion. They are on the run because of the more left-wing people in Dublin.”
A senior Fine Gael councillor confirmed they will keep a watching brief on Fianna Fail’s actions.
“The one thing about us is that we are clear where we stand. Fianna Fail are in turmoil. People like the Cathaoirleach have said they want to get rid of Irish Water. But it is Fianna Fail policy not to get rid of this state agency, and we have Fianna Fail members saying they have no problem with the utility.”
Elsewhere, dozens of people have this week been preventing Irish Water contractors installing meters in city estates this week.
But a High Court ruling over a protest in Dublin this Wednesday could have implications for future protests in Limerick.
GMC Sierra, which is installing meters in the capital has secured a ruling creating an exclusion order around water meter installations, other than local residents.
This ruling does not affect Limerick, but contractors here could follow the same course of action.
Cllr John Loftus, Anti-Austerity Alliance, said: “This is unconstitutional. It is a political decision by a high court judge, not a legal decision. They are taking away a basic right of the constitution of the Republic of Ireland.”
But Cllr Maria Byrne, Fine Gael, said she had received telephone calls from householders saying some protestors taking part in Rosbrien this week felt “intimidated”.
“People are entitled to have their say, but people doing their work are entitled to do their work as well. But I have had phone calls from some people yesterday who told me they had signed up for Irish Water and were objecting to the people who were protesting outside their door,” she said, “I genuinely had a call from someone yesterday who was quite upset at somebody objecting outside theri door,because they were not even from their area.”
The claim of “intimidation” was rejected outright by Cllr Loftus.
He pointed out that activists from the Anti-Austerity Alliance had approached people in nearby Lifford Gardens and respected their wish not to protest there.