Protestors arrested as water charges regime falls apart
Protestors arrested as water charges regime falls apart


Following a decision by the new coalition government that water charges are to be suspended for at least nine months, it has now been announced that penalties for non-payment of water charges are also to be suspended.

Although the programme of installing water meters is being reviewed and the charges now look unlikely to ever return, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail still insist people should continue to pay the ‘bills’. They have also refused to say if this money will be refunded in the future should Irish Water ultimately be scrapped.

The two government parties have been accused of attempting to have it both ways - to meet the demands for abolition of the charges, while at the same time trying to keep those who have paid already onside by calling for people to pay the final bill.

Former independent Finian McGrath, now a Minister of State in the new government, was roundly criticised after he yielded to pressure from his new colleagues to pay his outstanding bill -- but only after seeking a consultation with the Attorney General. He had faced claims from the Labour Party that it was unconstitutional for him, as a Minister, not to adhere to the law and pay his charges.

New chief whip Regina Doherty put it this way: “It is the law, and if and when we pass a new piece of legislation to suspend the law it doesn’t diminish the fact that it is the law and those outstanding bills need to be paid.”

People’s bills aren’t going to “magically disappear”, she said.

Meanwhile, a cross-party group of TDs have expressed concern after two men were arrested during a protest against Irish Water in County Wicklow on Monday.

The two men were arrested by gardai after they were part of a group who formed a blockade at a depot being used to store Irish Water materials. Both men, Sean Doyle and Eamonn McGrath, were remanded in custody.

A number of TDs such as Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Eoin O Broin, David Cullinane, Gino Kenny, Thomas Pringle and Richard Boyd Barrett have condemned the arrests.

“We condemn the criminalisation of protesters and the imprisonment of two elderly people who were the victims in this incident,” they said.

Their statement also added that a delegation of politicians would visit the two men, who remain in custody.

Sinn Fein TD John Brady said it was “disgraceful”.

“It is the petty revenge of a Government that did not get its own way with water charges,” he said. “The Government has admitted that domestic water charges are on the way out by suspending water charges in the immediate future. This would not have happened without demonstrations and protests against this unfair and unjust tax.”


Earlier this week, a 16-year-old boy became the first person to be jailed for taking part in the Jobstown protest against water charges, in which former Tanaiste and Labour leader claimed she had been illegally detained. The boy, who was 15 at the time of the alleged offence, was handed a six-month sentence.

Meanwhile, environmental activist Maura Harrington is currently languishing in Mountjoy Prison after being arrested last week in Mayo to serve time for an unpaid fine.

The 63-year-old was convicted last year in relation to the obstruction of a tunnel-boring machine at the Shell plant in Ballinaboy. A monetary penalty of 300 euro was imposed as part of her sentence, but she has refused to pay it.

Harrington, a retired school principal, has campaigned against the theft and destruction of Irish resources for years.

Republican Sinn Fein PRO Sean O Dubhlain condemned the arrest, which he said is “endemic of wider state corruption across the 26 Counties. Rather than listen to the concerns of a well respected community activist the political police of the Free State instead attack and oppress them.”

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