Thousands protest water charges

People of all ages took to streets.
This protester had a message for Joan Brution
This protester had a message for Joan Brution

The sheer scale of yesterday’s water protest march in Dublin yesterday appeared to take both the organisers and the Gardaí by surprise.

The march was originally planned to start at Parnell Square at 2 pm and proceed down O’Connell Street, but by 1.30 pm the square was already full and newly arrived protesters were diverted around the Rotunda Hospital to form up. Eventually the queue stretched back as far as Dorset Street.

From O’Connell Street the intended route was across the river and down D’Olier Street before doubling back down Westmoreland Street to assemble at the GPO. In the event the Gardaí realised that the crowd was too large and that the head of the procession would collide with the middle going in the opposite direction. Barriers were opened at College Green and the march was allowed to proceed unplanned past Leinster House and on round Stephen’s Green. From here it carried on to Aungier Street, down George’s Street, and rejoined the original route back at College Green.

By the time the tail of the march had left Dorset Street the head was already at Leinster House.

Water march
Planned route in green; route on the day in red

The result was that traffic was brought to a standstill on both sides of the city, and many drivers found themselves immobilised as the marchers swept past. Despite this the atmosphere remained good, with many of these same motorists sounding their horns in support.

As always, it is impossible to accurately gauge the number of protesters. RTE last night quoted a Garda source at 30,000; other estimates are much higher, with many in excess of 100,000. Certainly from the ground a figure of 30,000 would appear impossibly low. Many of the protesters were critical of media coverage of the Irish Water issue, with RTE being singled out for alleged bias more than most.

Much was made, by both the protesters themselves and the speakers back at the GPO, of Joan Burton’s recent comment about protesters owning expensive iphones. One placard read “Who pays for your smartphone Joan? We do”, people defiantly waved their camera phones in the air at every opportunity. Richard Boyd-Barrett urged everyone to take selfies and email them to the Tánaiste.

Audrey Clancey, of the Edenmore Says No campaign, thanked Irish Water in a backhanded way by congratulating them on doing what no-one had managed to do before: to finally unite the people of Ireland in saying that “enough is enough”. This drew a large cheer.

Independent TD Clare Daly declared that “today is an historic day when things will finally change”, and Richard Boyd-Barrett urged everyone present to keep the momentum going by supporting the next stage of the campaign: a day of nationwide protest in all towns and villages on November 1st.

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About Charles E Heasman 7 Articles
Born in England more years ago than I care to remember. A working man all my life, I first came to Ireland in 1979 as part of the fixtures and fittings of the trawler I was working on when it was sold from there to here, and have pretty much stayed since. Married to an Irish wife and with three - now adult - children, I feel as much of an affinity with my adopted country as my country of birth. In early life I took my political leanings from my father and was centre-right all my life. This began to change when I gave up fishing (a young man's game, so time to get out and do something else) and went to college; Dublin Institute of Technology to be precise. A first class honours in journalism was the result. During my time at DIT the realisation began to dawn that I'd personally witnessed half a decade of the fastest political and social change in history - and that change is still accelerating. Back in the day Thatcher and Reagan's neoliberal policies, even though none of us had yet heard the term, looked like the bright way forward which would save the world. I voted for her twice; but not the third. I now fervently believe that neoliberalism combined with the ever escalating growth of corporate power and acquisition of wealth poses a huge and insidious threat to society and the planet. I am now a socialist. I am an active grassroots member of People before Profit and if some care to describe me as a political activist I have no problems with it. That said, the opinions expressed in my blog are my own; I do not subscribe to groupthink, irrespective of what one's particular ideology might be; we each and every one of us have a personal duty to think for ourselves. Happily we can often agree. Oh, and the profile pic? I’ve been around long enough to recognise a venomous snake when I see one. Thank you for asking.

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