Irish Republican News · September 24, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Anti-water charges campaign remains defiant
Anti-water charges campaign remains defiant

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Political tension is building in the 26 Counties ahead of the annual budget announcements after a giant demonstration in Dublin again demanded the abolition of water charges.

Last weekend, an estimated 80,000 protesters marched in two separate groups from railway stations in Dublin before meeting at St Stephen’s Green, where speeches were held on water charges and other left-wing issues. Right2Water, an umbrella group made up of unions, political parties and community organisations, has been holding anti-charges rallies since late 2014.

People also marched on the headquarters of international technology firm Apple, in protest over the government’s decision to appeal the European Commission ruling for the company to pay 13 billion euro it says it owes in taxes.

Organiser Brendan Ogle said there was a “wrong perception” that, as water charges had been suspended, the issue had gone away - adding that “we don’t see it like that at all”.

Ogle also mentioned the anger people had over the government’s decision to appeal the European Commission’s ruling that Ireland granted the Apple 13 billion euro in illegal state aid.

There was “a lot of anger” over the decision. Ogle said, insisting the issue had “connected with people that I’ve met in a way that I haven’t heard or read about in the media”.

Speaking at the demonstration, Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan said abolition of water charges was “the loud, clear and unequivocal demand of the Irish people”.

“We have had eight marches in two years and we have delivered blow after blow to Irish Water and its supporters,” Ms Boylan said.

“The pillars of the establishment have lined up to smother this movement and protect the water charges regime.”

Earlier this month, a decision by Fianna Fail to again change tack on the water charges issue was seen as a potential first move in an election campaign. The current Fine Gael-led minority coalition government depends on Fianna Fail for support, and political commentators have warned the budget announcements could mark the collapse of the deal

Fianna Fail denied the party had done a U-turn on the issue -- but still refused to back a forthcoming Sinn Fein motion to scrap water charges.

Party leader Micheal Martin said Sinn Fein was “play-acting” with the motion. “No motion can scrap water charges. Only [legislation] can scrap water charges,” he said.

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan had called on Fianna Fail to “be true to their most recent words on water charges” and to support the motion, which will come before the Dail next week.

Martin claimed credit for the water regime, whuch he said had happened as a result of his party’s agreement with Fine Gael. He said that he wants general taxation to pay for Irish Water “into the future”, but did not rule out supporting the reintroduction of domestic water charges in the future.

Right2Water coordinator Brendan Ogle said the latest Fianna Fail twist on water charges is “clearly the first shot in what is likely to be a protracted election campaign”.

POLITICAL POLICING

In a related development, protests took place both in Ireland and abroad ahead of the appearance by former Tanaiste Joan Burton today for the trial of a 17-year-old for ‘false imprisonment’. Burton has said she felt trapped in her car during an anti-water-charges protest in Jobstown, Dublin in 2014

Ms Burton give evidence in the trial after arriving at the Children’s Court through a side door.

Speaking at a demonstration outside, Mr Murphy said that the charges against the teenager, who was 15 year old at the time, are “outrageous”.

“There’s no allegation of violence or anti-social behaviour or anything like that from him, it’s simply false imprisonment. We think it’s outrageous that a young man’s future would be endangered in that way,” Mr Murphy said.

The November 2014 rally in Jobstown in Tallaght has seen a total of 20 people dragged before the courts. The TD said that the sit-down protest that took place was similar to other protests that did not lead to any arrests.

“This amounts to political policing, it amounts to an attack on the right to protest and I think it’s right that we be here to show solidarity with the 17-year-old facing this very very difficult challenge that obviously he didn’t ask for,” he said.

The boy’s barrister has asked for a verdict of not guilty based on the prosecution evidence, the meaning of false imprisonment and the right to protest.

© 2016 Irish Republican News