Ireland water protest After almost a year of protests, people across the country continue to take to the streets to rally against the charges.Image: /Photocall Ireland

Jail, hunger strikes and mass protest: this is the face of the struggle in Ireland reports Ramona McCartney

Irish courts have started jailing those protesting at the highly unpopular private metering of water supply. Those in prison are being subjected to 23 hours confinement per day. Some went on a hunger strike, although that has now ended.

The day after the sentencing 10,000 people gathered outside the Central Bank in Dublin and marched to the prison were the protesters are being confined.

Five Irish protesters were sent to prison on the 19 February for breaching a High Court injunction preventing them from going within 20 metres of water meter installers. Three protesters were jailed for 28 days and two others were jailed for 56 days for contempt of court. 

The High Court justifies the ruling by stating they are protecting the workers installing the water meters. The majority of people on the street see this as a clear infringement on the right to effective and peaceful protest.

The Irish people have been shouldering the burden of the mess created by the banks for the last 6-7 years. In fact, the Irish have paid 42 percent of Europe’s banking debt since 2008. They are suffering at the hands of a pro-austerity government and have finally had enough. Now they are fighting back.

The straw that seemingly broke the camel’s back was the introduction of water charges. People are already charged for water through general taxation and motor tax and now they are being told they will be charged per quarter with the average household paying 500 euro per year for a water supply~a supply they are already paying for twice.

Over the past five or six months the Irish have taken to the streets in protest. With a national demo attracting upwards of 100,000 protesters, the people of Ireland are fast realising that a mass movement of this kind can actually beat the government and its non-stop austerity measures.

The Irish government has led the country to a place where the working class are facing a real crisis of homelessness, low wages and diminishing public services. Communities are being destroyed as a result of austerity. It is no wonder people are protesting the installation of water meters; they are seen as a precursor to full privatization of another Irish natural resource.

Through the many, highly organised, well-disciplined protests and demonstrations springing up all across Irelandthe government and Irish Water have been put on the back foot and are struggling to deal with this mass movement. The latest attempt at scaremongering was a series of dawn raids in Dublin and the arrest of a number of protesters that went within 20 meters of a meter installation.

This is political policing and needs to be stopped before there is a massive erosion of democratic rights and civil liberties. The public response shows that the Irish have had enough of paying bond holders, the continuous blackmailing by the European establishment and the scaremongering tactics used by jailing protesters.

The next National Demonstration will take place in Dublin on Saturday, 21 March 21. The organisers, Right2Water, say:  

“A large turnout on March 21st will not only restate our core assertion that water is a human right and underline our continuing demand for the total abolition of water user charges.  It will also send a clear message that we refuse to be bullied and intimidated into acquiescence”