Courtesy of Truthout:
Syriza has taken power in Greece and Podemos is rising in Spain. And now, people in the Republic of Ireland are fighting back as well, notwithstanding the “model pupil” label ascribed to the country by European elites.
The austerity program imposed by the troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund starting in 2010 stipulated that charges for households’ water consumption should be introduced – a plan that the right-wing government now in power is implementing. Notwithstanding public pronouncements to the contrary, the plan is most likely to eventually privatize Irish Water, the public utility set up to charge citizens for water.
This has provoked a strong popular movement against water charges. Its importance cannot be overstated; it is simply “the largest and broadest, and most sustained, social movement in Ireland since independence in 1921,” as an important new reportconcludes. Communities have been attempting to block the installation of water meters in neighborhoods throughout the country. Nationally, five demonstrations have gathered between 20,000 and 150,000 people. Relative to population, a protest of 100,000 in Ireland is equivalent to 1 million in Spain. Indeed, we are witnessing the “birth of a new civil society.”
The movement has made important gains already. It has forced the government to reduce the average annual charges from 278 to 160 euros per household. But protesters want to abolish Irish Water entirely and keep water – which after all, is not in short supply on the Emerald Isle – free. Actually we already pay for our water through general taxation (which is very high) and property and motor tax. Fully one-third of households liable to pay the charge, or about 500,000, have refused to register to pay. Protest groups hope that this boycott will force the government to cancel its plans, being unable to process such a high number of payment refusals.
So it seems that the government is now in a bind. People are very, very angry about being taxed yet again, essentially to pay for the banking fiasco here. They are now in the process of taking extraordinary measures. The Journal.ie reports:
THE HEAD OF landlords group the Residential Landlords Association has warned his members may have to triple deposits demanded of tenants in response to new government proposals on water charges.
The Cabinet last night approved proposals to deduct outstanding charges from the wages or social welfare payments of non-payers.
That move had been well flagged in advance – but last night’s announcement also included a proposal obliging landlords to withhold deposits from renters, until proof of payment to Irish Water is provided.
Landlords had been lobbying against that move, and Fintan McNamara of the RLA said this morning it was an “outrageous imposition” – and would make them, essentially, “debt collectors for Irish water”.