By Mick Barry TD
Support for the boycott of water charges is set to surge in the aftermath of the general election increasing pressure on any potential government to abolish both the charge and Irish Water itself.
Pressure on political establishment
Water charges became a major issue in the election with pro-water charges parties shocked by the depth of feeling on the issue on the doorsteps and by the volume of anti-water charges posters in the windows, especially in working class communities. In its immediate aftermath Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were at sixes and sevens on the issue with Fianna Fáil Environment spokesman Barry Cowen saying that a 5-year suspension was a “red-line issue” for the party only to be over-ruled by Micheal Martin, and Simon Coveney saying that Fine Gael were prepared to negotiate over water charges only to be shot down by Enda Kenny.
The splits in the political elite clearly showed that the water charges regime is not as solid as many had thought and big numbers of households are now considering throwing in their lot with the boycott in an effort to force the issue to a head. Amid reports of mass cancellations of direct debits Dermott Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland predicted “very, very sharp” drops in water charges payment levels on the next bill.
No trust in FF & FG…
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil cannot be given one iota of trust on this issue. The latter campaigned in the general election for a 5-year suspension of the charge and for the abolition of Irish Water. Yet, Micheál Martin says this is not a “red-line issue” and anonymous party spokespersons threaten to forcibly deduct unpaid charges.
Mass pressure is the only thing that will force these parties to even consider abolition and that is why the boycott must be stepped up. The Anti Austerity Alliance, the Socialist Party and the We Won’t pay campaign are appealing to every household in the country to boycott the next bill.
…Boycott is key
To those who have boycotted up to this point we say – hold firm. To those who paid under pressure we say – the pressure is on the political establishment now, re-join the boycott, we can win. To those who paid because the law is the law we say – you’ve already paid once if not twice, why pay a third time? And we are going to win, why throw good money after bad?
If the charges are abolished we will fight for an amnesty for all nonpayers and for a refund for all who did pay. If they are not abolished immediately there can be no forced deductions without court cases and there can be no court cases until debts are over the €500 mark – ie well into next year.
Penalties for those who haven’t paid a penny fall due with the fifth bills which will arrive in late spring/early summer – €30 for households with one adult, €60 for households with two or more. These sums are significantly less than what the movement has saved every household to date (compare the annual bill to Fianna Fail’s original proposal for €500 per annum) and cannot be collected if a solid mass of people hold firm.
Take to the streets
Up until this point neither Right2Water or Sinn Fein have called for a mass boycott of the charge. That policy should change now. The charge is clearly greatly weakened after the general election and all sections of the movement should unite to call for a mass boycott to finish it off.
As well as taking this step Right2Water should now call for a mass, national demonstration in Dublin on a Saturday before any new government is formed. Such a call could receive a tremendous response and greatly increase the pressure on the establishment parties to throw the charge overboard.
Mick Barry is a newly elected AAA TD for Cork North Central & Socialist Party member. Mick’s victory saw the AAA win its first seat outside of Dublin.