In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to Ireland’s streets in opposition to water charges introduced by the government. The Irish plan would help pay back its $83 billion European Union International Monetary Fund bailout loan from 2010. But there is plenty of backlash from residents fed up and frustrated over austerity measures. CCTV America’s Lourda Sexton reported this story from Dublin.
Ireland is among few modern countries that don’t charge residents for water usage. But that’s about to change starting Jan. 1, 2015, when the meters start running. The first bills will be sent out in April.
The plan is not going over well with the Irish people, despite arguments that the new system should improve quality.
“There are two good reasons. One is that the water system in Ireland is very poor, and there is poor quality water in Ireland so that it needs to be sorted out,” said John Fitzgerald, adjunct professor of Trinity College Dublin. “The previous local administrations which ran it didn’t do a good job. The second thing is Irish water should be able to deliver it at a much lower cost as each local community did its own supply and it was very expensive in terms of people, in terms of resources.”
From the get go, the government failed to clearly set out the water rates which led to angry protests across Ireland.
In the face of increasing street demonstrations, the government revised the water charges, making them the cheapest in Europe. With available government rebates, families will pay no more than $200 a year, and single adults will pay no more than $75.
The current water protests are about much more than water. It’s about the ordinary people venting their anger after years of austerity.
Ireland is forecasting to have GDP growth of 4.6 percent this year, the fastest growing in Europe, yet unemployment remains relatively high at 11 percent.
The Anti Austerity Alliance, which has led some of the protests, said momentum is on their side and vowed they won’t stop fighting the measures.
“What’s happened is people are no longer afraid of the government but increasingly they are aware that the government is afraid of them and it’s a very powerful sentiment and I think there is a high degree of possibility that before the next general election is due the government can be brought down by a people power movement from below forcing general elections,” said Alliance member Paul Murphy.