by RAF Staff
Thousands of Irish people are demonstrating throughout Ireland against water charges. The fees for water were introduced in November, 2014 and have been the source of public outrage. The plan adopted by the Irish government is part of a larger plan to pay back money accepted in the 2010 bailout of the Irish economy.
Before the financial collapse of 2008, Ireland had been one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. The Irish economic boom that began in the 1990s, known as the “Celtic Tiger,” was largely based on tax incentives for multinational companies – many of whom disappeared almost as rapidly as they arrived. As the “world’s most globalized economy,” the tax-breaks and incentives provided to non-Irish investors were essentially deferred to the Irish tax-payer. However, with the economic downturn and the decline in the Celtic Tiger, essential services that would have been provided for had multinationals paid their fair share are now being targeted for EU-driven austerity measures, cuts and price-hikes to the tax-payer.
The BBC has described the demonstrations as one of the largest in Irish history. (Prior to these protests over water charges, Ireland’s largest demonstrations had occurred on February 15, 2003 as part of the international day of protest against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq drawing an estimated 100,000-150,000 people.)
According to the Irish news service, RTÉ, protesters number over 120,000. Protest signs indicate that the level of anger is escalating with homemade signs bearing slogans like “Ireland will rise and topple these traitors” to more moderate slogans simply stating “No to water charges.” The Irish political party Sinn Féin, long associated with the Irish movement for national independence made a powerful showing as did other notable personalities including famed singers and artists lending support to the demonstrators.
The demonstrations have provoked a response from government ministers who have vowed to respond to the people but have yet to provide concrete details. The first wave of water bills are scheduled to be delivered in January 2015.