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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 24 February, 2018
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Tens of thousands of people have been taking part in the latest mass demonstration against water charges, organised by Right2Water and community groups.

The main protest began at Merrion Square, just outside Government Buildings, at 1pm — with people travelling from the four corners of the country (and even Detroit) to take part. 

Estimates of numbers have varied widely — with one Minister putting the figure as low as 20 thousand, Gardaí putting it at between 30 and 35 thousand, and some organisers claiming up to 100 thousand turned out. 

Elsewhere in the city, breakaway protest groups caused traffic chaos by blocking O’Connell Bridge -– and a Garda was taken to hospital after being injured in a confrontation on Kildare Street. 

Here’s how it all played out… 

Barriers were erected in Merrion Square and on Kildare and Molesworth Streets early this morning.

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Images: Susan Daly/TheJournal.ie

 

People have begun to arrive from all over the country. Our reporter Daragh Brophy spoke to some of the protesters earlier.

Last night, former junior minister Fergus O’Dowd, one of the people involved in setting up Irish Water, said he was worried that the utility would be privatised.

He said he remains “deeply concerned at other agendas, they may be European… I don’t know where they are coming from…” and said we have “real reason to be concerned”.

Kelly’s response today?

I don’t really know what Fergus O’Dowd is talking about, to be frank. I haven’t a clue.

I mean ‘dark forces’? That goes to a space where I’m not really sure where he’s going to be honest.

From our political editor Hugh O’Connell:

There’s a large Garda presence gathering at the bottom of Kildare Street including the Public Order Unit with barking dogs amid suggestions that protesters on Nassau Street may attempt to breach the barriers.

From our political editor Hugh O’Connell:

There’s a large Garda presence gathering at the bottom of Kildare Street including the Public Order Unit with barking dogs amid suggestions that protesters on Nassau Street may attempt to breach the barriers.

 

https://vine.co/v/Or3WEVZdHXL

A few TDs have ventured out to see what it’s all about. We saw Leo Varadkar come up Kildare Street for an interview with RTÉ and we also bumped into John Halligan who was heading in the same direction. Fine Gael backbenchers Derek Keating and Jim Daly also ventured outside the main Leinster House entrance to have a look.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has just been on RTÉ’s News at One saying “it really bothers me that people are protesting over €3 a week” when there are “much bigger problems in Irish society” citing the Áras Attracta revelations and people waiting on hospital trollies. He prefaced his comments by acknowledging they may not be politically correct.

His remarks didn’t go down well with his fellow interview panellists.

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen said setting up Irish Water was a mistake, adding that the company’s “conservation ethos” has been completely lost.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan accused the Government of arrogance, while Independent TD John Halligan said today’s march is about more than just water charges.

The Government are still just not getting this … It’s about six years of austerity.

Planning on using public transport today? Dublin Bus is experiencing serious delays to its service, due to the protest.

Adams tells the crowd today’s march is about “the empowerment of people”.

We feel a protest song coming on…

Stuck in traffic? We’ve some bad news…

Protesters give the Government the red card.

Right2Water protest - Dublin Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

Right2Water protest - Dublin Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

Right2Water protest - Dublin Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

It’s hard to put a figure on how many demonstrators have shown up, with a wide range of estimates being thrown around.

Gardaí have confirmed that between 30,000-35,000 protesters showed up today.

Hi… Daragh Brophy here taking over liveblog duties from Orla (awesome job Ryan, take the rest of the day off etc. etc.)

Anyway… I’m just back from Merrion Square, where I’ve been Tweeting like a trojan for the last few hours (get them here).

Crowds were really beginning to thin as I left the main protest area around 20 minutes ago — but there are still many thousands packed in to the streets immediately surrounding Government Buildings.

Mr Dublin himself, Damien Dempsey, has been rocking the crowds in the last few minutes…

Bit of a traffic and travel update, if you’re heading home from — or through the city — this evening…

Merrion Street, Nassau Street towards Merrion Square, Kildare Street and a number of other streets around the city centre remain closed.

If posible you’re better off avoiding the entire city centre area this evening.

Dawson Street is moving again after chock-a-block traffic earlier… But once you get to the bottom of it, you’re not left with many options.

 

“Think today of all the 3rd level students that are doing 1st semester exams. If we weren’t, the streets would be even fuller.” — From student Neil in Cork, via email.

Some organisers disputing crowd size…

Brendan Ogle, from Right2Water and the Unite union, estimated numbers earlier at between 70 to 80 thousand.

Gardaí have told us numbers are more like 30 to 35 thousand.

Someone just sent us this image via email, with the line…

“Rte van tagged. Maybe in response to reports of only 30,000 attending March when over 100,000 counted by streets filled around merrion square and Nassau st.”

This guy’s perched on top of the traffic lights at the bottom of Kildare Street. Or at least he was, until recently (we’re not saying he fell or anything — but he’s probably climbed down by now).

Source: Vanessa Swaine

More in from the Gardaí on that injured officer.

A spokesman confirmed the incident happened on Kildare street, and the Garda received facial injuries.

The extent of those injuries isn’t known as yet.

He’s being treated in hospital.

Gardaí have confirmed a person is being treated in hospital after a collision at the scene of a protest near Liberty Hall this evening.

A small group of water charge protesters had been attempting to block traffic outside the landmark union building earlier, after breaking away from the main demonstration at Merrion Square.

The person has been taken to hospital for assessment, a Garda spokesperson said.

Dublin Fire Brigade also confirmed they attended the scene, but had no further details.

This Tweet was also sent from the scene…

TheJournal.ie has been unable to confirm the full details of what’s described in the Tweet.

The Garda spokesperson said the car hadn’t mounted the pavement. He said details of what had happened were still coming in from the scene.

Scenes from Merrion Square earlier today, from Press Association photographer Niall Carson…

Source: Niall Carson

Source: Niall Carson

Source: Niall Carson

Source: Niall Carson

Source: Niall Carson

Source: Niall Carson

Our own Nicky Ryan is down at the Dublin quays. Here’s the latest…

https://vine.co/v/Orlzv3Hjgrl

https://vine.co/v/Orl7OFU7w2H

TheJournal.ie‘s Christina Finn just sent us these from the Nassau St/Kildare St area in the last few minutes.

A Garda was injured outside the Dáil earlier today, and the riot squad deployed, amid a tense stand-off with demonstrators. (More on that here).

Looks like there’s been some property damage in the area too…

The main traffic and travel points… 

  • People are being advised to avoid the quays entirely, after groups of protesters blocked O’Connell Bridge. 
  • There are major diversions to bus routes as result. (Check for more at DublinBus.ie.)
  • The Luas Red Line isn’t running between Smithfield and Connolly/The Point. 
  • Dart and Irish Rail trains are running as normal — but are busier than usual as a result of protest crowds. 
  • There are still road closures and diversions in place around Kildare Street, Merrion Square and the surrounding areas. 

 

Oh… And Panti’s not happy.

Well THAT was all we needed…

Now someone’s driven their car onto the Luas Green Line.

From the Luas website:

“Please also note that services on the Green Line (St. Stephen’s Green to Brides Glen) are only running at the moment from Brides Glen to Beechwood

“There is no service between Beechwood and St Stephens Green

“A motorist has accidentally driven onto the track at Charlemont, the tow truck is on route but traffic is very heavy due to the protest in the City. We are doing our utmost to restore a full line as soon as possible.

Source: Jeff Rockett

Right…

Away from the traffic situation, Brendan Ogle of Right2Water has just been on RTÉ’s Six One.

He’s sticking to that 100 thousand figure for turnout, given by organisers earlier.

“About a quarter past two today we had a situation where our biggest concern was safety from crushing.

“We have people coming to this demonstration — a site that the Gardaí told us held 60 thousand — who were turned back for safety reasons. We were told that.”

Brendan Ogle

Earlier, Fine Gael Minister Simon Coveney put the number at “somewhere between 20 and 30 thousand — according the Gardaí”.

“I think there’s an obligation to try and be accurate.”

The Garda Press Office estimated the crowd at between 30 and 35 thousand, stressing they were confident to stand over that number.

TheJournal.ie was down at Merrion Square at around 2.15 — and this is how the crowd looked on the south side of the square, about 100 metres back from the main stage.

There were reports, however, that the far side of the square was far busier… And in fairness, the crowds were a lot heavier just 15 minutes before the above shot was taken.

This argument’s set to run and run I imagine.

The following press release from Right2Water just landed in our inbox… 

An estimated 100,000 people from all over Ireland attended the National Assembly organised by Right2Water today (10 December 2014).

The Right2Water campaign is a broad alliance comprising trade unions, political parties, independent TDs, and a range of community groups and activists.  It has one core premise – that water is a human right – and one core demand: the abolition of domestic water charges.

In a statement, the campaign today said:

“Today saw 100,000 people from all over the country gather on a bitterly cold day in Merrion Square to reinforce that demand.  Since October 11, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets and squares of our towns and cities to demand the abolition of domestic water charges, and the campaign will continue until that objective is achieved.

“The kind of peaceful people power we witnessed today in Merrion Square has already extracted significant concessions from the Government.  We urge all those who oppose these domestic water charges to resist any attempt by isolated groups to undermine that principle of peaceful and unified protest”, the statement concluded.

Source: Michael Hinsdale

And some startling photos of O’Connell Street, from Photocall Ireland’s Eamon Farrell:

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

That’s about it from us — keep an eye on the main site for more reaction and further developments this evening.

Some good news from the folks at Luas before we go…

 

Traffic-wise, there are still major delays around Dublin this evening.

But the crowds blocking traffic around O’Connell Bridge appear to be thinning.

Our reporter Nicky Ryan (who seems to be refusing to go home) says the scene at the bottom of Kildare Street appears to be much quieter now.

https://vine.co/v/Orl6QvFZYTJ

That was the 10 December water protest…

See you all again in January. Apparently…

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