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Protestors outside the GPO during a Right2Water protest in August 2015.
Protestors outside the GPO during a Right2Water protest in August 2015.
Image: Barry Cronin

"Tens of thousands" expected to protest water charges (and the government's Apple decision)

Right2Water is asking people to take to the streets again, and organisers are preparing for a large turnout.
Sep 13th 2016, 1:32 PM 18,838 120

ORGANISERS OF THIS weekend’s planned protest calling for the abolition of water charges say speakers at the rally will also address the government’s decision to appeal the Apple tax ruling, which was backed by the Dáil last week.

Saturday’s demonstration will be the 8th national Right2Water protest to take place since October 2014.

Brendan Ogle, an official from the Unite trade union, and one of the leaders of the campaign group, said there was “a lot of anger” at the decision to appeal the European Commission’s ruling that Ireland granted the tech giant €13 billion in illegal state aid.

Speaking at a press conference today, he said the issue had “connected with people that I’ve met in a way that I haven’t heard or read about in the media”.

Ogle insisted it was unfair that such a “gargantuan amount of money is being appealed”, and predicted that the decision could swell numbers at the Dublin demonstration.

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Sinn Féin and the AAA-PBP are also part of the Right2Water umbrella group, which was initially set up solely to address the water charges issue. Both parties submitted motions calling for the government to drop its appeal against the Commission ruling last week, but both were rejected by the chamber.

Organisers of the protest were preparing for “tens of thousands” to turn out, Ogle said.

He said there was a “wrong perception” that, as water charges had been suspended, the issue had gone away – adding that “we don’t see it like that at all”.

Three assembly points 

Dave Gibney of the Mandate union, who also addressed today’s press conference, said a third assembly point had been added to the schedule for protesters this weekend “in light of the Apple tax situation”.

Participants will be asked to gather at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, close to Dublin’s so-called Silicon Docks area (home to a number of international tech firms) at 1.30pm.

The other assembly points are at Connolly Station, to the north of the city (2pm) and Heuston to the west (2pm).

13/09/2016. Right 2 Water. Pictured (LtoR) Right 2 Brendan Ogle and Dave Gibney of Right2Water at today's press conference. Source: Sam Boal

Speeches will take place at St Stephen’s Green later in the afternoon. O’Connell Street, the usual location for water charge demonstrations, is out-of-bounds for health and safety reasons, due to continuing Luas works in the area.

Fianna Fáil 

Asked whether Fianna Fáil TDs would be welcome on the stage this weekend, in light of the party’s announcement yesterday that it wants water charges abolished, Ogle said that that FF had said the “right things” from Right2Water’s point of view.

“If Fianna Fáil could be trusted on this issue, and of course there is much evidence that they can’t be, then their statement yesterday was welcome,” he said.

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“We don’t think that submission, and the fact that that submission comes a week before the 8th Right2Water demonstration, is a bad thing.

“I’m not one of those people that ever think winning people around to your argument is a bad thing,” Ogle added, going on to observe that “it was Fianna Fáil who first placed water charges on the agenda”.

I’m not sure they’ve recovered popularity enough among the general mass of protesters to be welcomed onto the stage just yet.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin confirmed yesterday that the party’s submission to the commission examining the water issue called for the abolition of charges and for the provision of water to be funded by general taxation.

He denied it was a u-turn, insisting that the submission was in line with the Fianna Fáil general election position this year.

The commission set up to examine water charges will report to an Oireachtas committee, with politicians set to vote on the issue by the end of March next year.

The tagline of this weekend’s protest is for “abolition not suspension” of the charges.

Read: ‘I’m not sure what Fianna Fáil are at here’ – Enda’s not impressed by latest water charges twist >

Read: The Greens aren’t happy that people on €75k are getting cheaper bus fares than students >

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Daragh Brophy

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