Date Released: 11 December 2014
An estimated 60,000 people crowded into Merrion Square in Dublin at lunchtime on Wednesday, 10th December, to protest against water charges and the wider austerity agenda.
The event, which was organised by the Right2Water campaign and supported by SIPTU, began at 1.00 p.m. and concluded at 5.00 p.m. During this period the crowd varied in size and at its largest included many workers attending the event during their lunch-break. At this time most of Merrion Square was full, with protestors also filling many of the adjacent streets.
Those attending the protest heard speeches from a variety of left-wing politicians, community leaders and trade union representatives.
Among those who addressed the crowd were members of Sinn Féin, the Anti Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit Alliance, the Workers’ Party and Independent left-wing TDs.
Shay L'Estrange of the community group Crumlin Says No, told the crowd: “The power doesn’t always reside with the elites of this world like Denis O’Brien, it doesn’t reside with the people that occupy the big house [Leinster House] either, it doesn’t even reside with the people that stand on this stage today, it resides with you and me, the ordinary people”.
He added: “A change of government is not enough, we want a change in the way that democracy is done in this country, we want a democracy that affords equality to everybody and a democracy that is answerable to the people”.
Addressing the crowd on behalf of the Mandate trade union, Dunnes Stores shop steward, Mandy La Combre, said: “If we want to fix the water infrastructure why are we giving a tax break of €405 million to the top 17% of earners? Why did CEOs of multinationals receive a tax break? Why is €500 million being spent on installing meters that will not be used? Why was €82 million spent on incompetent consultants whose plans have now been binned?”
Other speakers included members of the Detroit Water Brigade who had travelled from the US to inform people of the disastrous effect on low-income families of water part-privatisation in their home city.
The event also featured a number of musical performances. These included a rendition of the ‘Auld Triangle’ by Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard.
The Right2Water campaign is currently in discussions on the date of a further mass protest in January. SIPTU is in talks with the campaign group, which currently includes five unions, on a joint campaign to combat the threat of water privatisation while maintaining a national water utility.