Residents’ associations in south-east of the county are leading a new wave of protests against the installation of water meters, ahead of plans for a major demonstration in Ennis this Saturday.
The public protest, organised by Clare Says No to Water Charges, will begin at O’Connell Square at 1pm.
This week, sub contractors acting on behalf of Irish Water have been prevented or delayed from installing water meters in Killaloe, Parteen, Meelick and a number of housing estates in the sprawling Westbury Housing development.
Maurice Walsh, who lives in Clarisford, Killaloe, confirmed that contractors were prevented from installing water meters in their estate on Tuesday at 11am, after residents requested contracts and consent forms.
Residents have mounted daily peaceful protests at the entrance to the estate in recent weeks during working hours, to ensure contractors don’t get a free passage for the installation of meters. They are hoping other estates in the town will join their “blockade” over the coming estates.
Anti-Austerity Alliance local elections candidate, David Houlihan, said he stood in front of a digger to prevent contractors installing water meters in Bishop Murphy Park on Tuesday morning.
Mr Houlihan claimed when contractors arrived at 7am, they were advised they couldn’t start until 8am, which was confirmed by local gardaí, who were called by residents. With all but two of the 20 houses in the estate against water meters, he stated the stand-off was good humoured and without rancour towards the workers, who they don’t have any issue with as they are only acting on behalf of Irish Water (IW). He said the contractors eventually packed their bags and filled up the holes in the ground they made, before leaving without installing any meters at 10am.
In addition to delaying the installation of water meters in Meelick, he said contractors were prevented from installing meters in three or four estates in Westbury.
“People are already paying for water through general taxation. We don’t need to pay again. It is hard for most people to protest during the day because they have to go to work. Where has the €1 billion that was being spent providing a public water supply gone? It is time for people to take a stand against austerity taxes,” he said.
Mr Walsh pointed out the millions of euro “wasted on excessive fees” for consultants and other set-up costs for IW could have been better spent reducing the wastage of up to 52% of water in some counties.
“Local gardaí have stated we can protest, as long as there is no violence or abusive language directed at anyone.
“The general consensus of people in this estate is the standard ‘free’ allowance of about 20% of average usage is too low and should be doubled or trebled. It is very hard for people to see water flowing into the ground and back into rivers to be treated a second and third time before it reaches a house due to leakage.
“People would not mind paying for water if it was fair but it is not fair. While IW may eventually put in a meter in this estate, non payment is what will hurt IW and the Government,” he said, adding, “No bonuses or performance-related incentives should be paid to people in IW.”“Some people who can’t afford to heat their houses will now not be able to afford to have a shower. Where does it all stop?” Mr Walsh asked.
All but one of the residents in the 26 housing units in the Clarisford estate are opposed to water charges.
Asked about the protest in his own home town, Killaloe Councillor Tony O’Brien declined to comment.
These protests have boosted efforts by Clare Says No To Water Charges to intensify their campaign for the abolition of water charges. Buoyed by the wave of anger and frustration that was expressed at a national demonstration attended by over 100,000 protesters, according to organisers, the Clare group is expecting a large crowd to vent their opposition to current Government policy this Saturday.
In fact, group spokesman Paul Whitmore believes this protest could result in one of the biggest county demonstrations if initial support he is receiving all week translates into people walking the streets. Having attended the national demonstration, Mr Whitmore also insists that some media reports about 50,000 attending the Dublin march were wide off the mark.
“The anger against water charges is increasing since the national demonstration. People who are opposed to water charges now realise they are not on their own.
“I have been in Croke Park for big matches and there was definitely more than 83,000 people in Dublin. In my view there were easily 100,000 at the march. We were walking for about 90 minutes and as we were making our way back to the GPO, one section of the crowd still hadn’t moved.
“I am getting phonecalls all week about water charges. It could be one of the biggest county protests in Clare,” he claimed.
People are asked to congregate around the O’Connell Monument at 1pm. The protestors are planning to walk down O’Connell Street onto Mill Road and back into town.
The call to attend local and national anti-water charges demonstrations was made at a recent public meeting in Dan O’Connell’s Bar. There was standing room only at the meeting, which was addressed by Niamh O’Brien, who stood for Fís Nua in the local elections last May, Ennis resident Paul Whitmore and Michael J Campbell.