'Unprecedented Mobilization': Hundred Thousand Rise Against Irish Water Tax

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'Unprecedented Mobilization': Hundred Thousand Rise Against Irish Water Tax

Over 100 demonstrations held across Ireland protesting austerity scheme to tax, privatize water supply

Protesters rally in Swords County, Ireland against a government plan to tax domestic water use. (Photo: Right2WaterIreland)

Protesters rally in Swords County, Ireland against a government plan to tax domestic water use. (Photo: Right2WaterIreland)

Update 2:20 EST:

Protest organizers Right 2 Water estimate that over 150,000 people came out to protest the water charge scheme. In a statement released Saturday afternoon, they wrote: "Despite torrential rain, our expectations have been massively exceeded, with well over 150,000 people coming out in every neighbourhood, town and village to send a clear message to the Government: water is a human right, and we demand the abolition of domestic water charges."

Earlier:

Across Ireland, crowds of people took to the streets on Saturday in a mass mobilization against a government austerity scheme to charge residents for domestic water usage.

With over 70 demonstrations planned across the nation, organizers estimated as many as 100,000 Irish citizens are expected to take part in  the actions.

The demonstrations follow on the heels of 100,000-strong march in the nation's capital to protest a recently enacted government plan to install water meters on homes and charge residents for private water usage. Angry residents have also begun blocking the water meter installations.

"From Ballyshannon in Donegal to Tralee in Kerry, we are witnessing an unprecedented popular mobilisation which started in Dublin on October 11th, and will only end when domestic water user charges are abolished," said the group Right2Water in a press statement ahead of the Saturday actions. The group says that the historic showing reflects the "level of public anger surrounding the water charges."

The Journal is maintaining a live blog of the day's events while images of the dozens of protests are being shared on Twitter under the hashtag #Right2Water.

As part of their bailout deal made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Irish government has attempted to enact reforms to privatize the nation's water system. Under the Water Services Act 2013, the government set up a new semi-state company, Irish Water, which is gradually taking over all water provision services from the Republic's 34 local authorities.

In the face of growing water crisis, fueled largely by climate change-driven drought effects, efforts to privatize water resources are springing up worldwide. Mitch Jones, Director of the Common Resources Program at Food & Water Watch, says that the concept of "water markets" is fraught. "A market can’t represent the common will of the people, because only those with the money to buy are allowed a voice," Jones writes. "And it can’t express the value of water because the value of a life-giving substance like water is different than its cost. Water is vital for all of us. And, access to water cannot be for sale."

According to the Irish Independent, a meeting between Irish Water officials and councillors from Cork, Kerry and Clare had to be abandoned on Friday after protesters gained access to a conference room.

In an expression of solidarity, residents of Detroit, Michigan—which has faced mass water shutoffs in the face of a similar water privatization effort—are marching on Saturday on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

"Detroiters stand in solidarity with the people of Ireland against water charges and the privatization of our public water systems," wrote organizers with the group Detroit Water Brigade. "We are not strangers ourselves to the escalating attacks on the poorest members of society collectively known as 'austerity.'"

Following the day of action, the Right2Water campaign will a national People’s Assembly on International Human Rights Day, December 10, to "visibly and vocally celebrate and reinforce our human Right2Water." A contingent from the Detroit Water Brigade is also expected to attend. 

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