Saturday November 1 saw a nationwide day of protest against the proposed introduction of water charges.
Marches were organised in all the major cities and towns across the country, with the largest gathering taking place in Dublin. Smaller local marches took place throughout the greater Dublin region in the morning, with protesters then coming together in the city for the main event at 2pm.
There were two starting points: one at Connolly Station, the other at Heuston. The two groups marched on their respective sides of the Quays before joining and converging at the GPO in O’Connell Street.
As with last month’s march the atmosphere was good, with no reports of arrests. At the same time, however, a palpable feeling of anger against the Government and Irish Water pervaded. The message which the people were sending out was “enough is enough”, and that after years of austerity they were not prepared to be squeezed any more.
Unlike many parts of the country the rain held off for most of the day, but by late afternoon the bad weather had set in and many people did not stay for the end of the speeches. Nonetheless, the organisers once again claimed a higher turnout than expected, pointing out that the sheer volume of protesters sent a clear message to the Government.
Speaking at the Fine Gael presidential dinner in Dublin that evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that the Government would not be scrapping water charges. He admitted, however, that mistakes had been made in their introduction, and that the setting up of Irish Water had been badly handled.
He went on to point out that the alternative to water charges would be an increase of 4% on the higher bracket of income tax, an option which he was not prepared to consider.
Meanwhile, the latest opinion poll for the Sunday Independent shows a further slip in Government popularity.
Dissatisfaction with the Taoiseach has grown to 67%, up 9% since September; Joan Burton’s popularity has also slipped by 8% in the same period.
The poll also asked voters who they would vote for if a general election was called tomorrow. Results suggest that Sinn Féin, at 26%, is now the most popular political party in the country, ahead of Fine Gael at 22% and Fianna Fail at 20%.
Further water protests are planned for the end of this month.