Mass Revolt Sweeps Ireland
Last Saturday (1 November) saw an extraordinary wave of protest across every town in Ireland. In a country of only 4.5 million around 200,000 took to the streets against the government’s proposed water charges. This follows on an immense national demonstration of over 100,000 in Dublin on 11 October.
If the overall figure is massive it is in the detail that the real scale of the revolt shows itself. In Letterkenny, a town of 20,000 in Donegal, about 10,000 people marched. In Drogheda, population 38,000, it was 8000. In small towns like Swords, north of Dublin, and Bray, south of Dublin, Sligo in the North West and Waterford on the South coast, the figure was about 5,000.
Even in very small places like Fermoy in Cork (population about 5000) and Gorey (9,000) there were 1-2 thousand on the streets.
In Dublin, where the movement is most developed, there were about 30,000 in the city centre at the GPO but there were 25 protests at the same time in other parts of the City. Most of these were thousands strong.
To give readers a flavour of the day, this is what happened in my neighbourhood of Drimnagh. The demo began outside my house where we gathered about 40 neighbours behind our banner. From there we marched to local shops, where our ranks swelled to six hundred. Then we marched through the local area growing to over a thousand and down to a major roundabout about a mile away where we met up with four other marches. In all about 4000 or so occupied and held the roundabout.
It was a feature of many of the marches that they engaged in civil disobedience blocking key roads, roundabouts and LUAS (tram) lines but such were the numbers the guardai (police) were powerless to intervene.
The day of action was called by the Right2Water campaign which was set up on the initiative of People Before Profit and involves also the Socialist Party, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, Sinn Fein, and Unite, Mandate and the CPSU.
However the real driving force comes from grass roots organisation in local communities. All the marches have been very working class in composition.
The foundation of the movement was laid in organisation in the working class estates since September to prevent the installation of water meters,. This is reflected in the fact that one of the most popular slogans is ‘Stick your Water Meters up Your Arse!’.
But there is also political generalisation. Other popular slogans are ‘Enda (Kenny) in your ivory tower, this is called People Power!’ and, with its echoes of Palestine, ‘From the Rivers to the Sea, Irish Water will be Free!’.
The radicalisation of the Irish working class is also seen in recent election results and opinion polls which show the decline of all the mainstream parties (Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour) and the rise of Sinn Fein and the far left.
This great people’s revolt is the culmination of six years of relentless austerity, unjust charges and cutbacks which have left working people with their backs to the wall. Now they have a sense of their power and believe they defeat the hated Water Charges and bring down the government.
From here the movement through numerous local actions to another great national demonstration on 10 December, a working day which involves a call to Stay Away from work and lay siege to Parliament.