“Minister, read the writing on the wall. It’s over. You’ve lost. The ‘sinister fringe’ has won. Give it up. Scrap the (water) charges.”
Simon Coveny, the Fine Gael Minister responsible for Water Charges in Ireland, endured a torrid time in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) on 6 April as Socialist Party member and Dublin South West TD (MP) Paul Murphy exposed his party’s attempts to smuggle the iniquitous water charges in through the back door.
The debate in the Dáil followed on from an extraordinary intervention by the minister into the draft report from the parliamentary committee on water charges.
The final report was widely seen as a victory for the anti-water charges movement. Among the key recommendations of the report was the scrapping of water charges and a commitment to fund water use through general taxation.
In an eleventh hour intervention minister Coveny sought to overturn the recommendations. Once again the bogeyman of EU law was used. The report triggered a crisis in the Fine Gael minority government.
Fine Gael is being propped up by the largest opposition party Fianna Fáil. Despite Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil sharing the same pro-privatisation views on water, Fianna Fáil backed amendments from Paul Murphy that reflected the demands of the anti-water charges movement. They did this out of fear for their own electoral base if they were seen to be too pro-water charges.
This provoked an enraged response from Fine Gael with angry insults being traded in the Dáil and on social media. This may not be the issue that collapses the minority government, but it is certainly mortally wounded.
Dublin saw a mass demonstration by the anti-water charges movement on 8 April. Thousands of people turned out in what many hoped would be a “last push” on water charges.
There is little complacency that full victory has been achieved. One demonstrator told the Irish Times: “I don’t trust these politicians, especially Fianna Fáil. But if they don’t abolish the charges, well, we’ll be back in our hundreds of thousands.”
Support the Jobstown trial defendants
On 24 April the first adult trial of Jobstown anti-water charges protesters – which includes Paul Murphy – gets underway.
Formally, the trial is about the Irish state charging the peaceful protesters with ‘false imprisonment’ after the car carrying the then deputy prime minister, Joan Burton, was delayed by a sit-down protest in Jobstown, south west Dublin, in November 2014.
In reality, the trial is a political vendetta by the establishment to deter future mass protest movements. The ability of mass protest to disrupt cosy parliamentary procedure underlines what a thorn in the side radical socialist representatives like Paul have become for the establishment.
The latest manoeuvre of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) is an attempt to stack the jury.
The DPP is seeking to exclude from the jury anyone from Tallaght (where the protest occurred), anyone who has expressed an opinion on the water charges in public, including on social media, or anyone who is part of a campaigning organisation opposed to water charges!
This latter condition would exclude members of trade unions who have supported the Right2Water campaign such as Unite or the CPSU civil servants’ union.
There can be no complacency that a jury could not possibly convict people for engaging in peaceful protest. The international solidarity campaign needs to continue right up to the trial and beyond.
- To assist the campaign in Britain contact [email protected]
Protest in solidarity with Jobstown – Monday 24 April, 2pm
- Outside the Irish Embassy, London SW1X 7HR
- Organised by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers