Protesters bin water charge bills at major rally in Dublin

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Thousands took part in the protest.
Thousands took part in the protest.

Protesters brandished the first of thousands of water charge bills that have been issued in recent weeks in the air before ripping them up and binning them at a rally in Dublin yesterday afternoon.

It is estimated  that 10,000 people took part in the  ‘Bin your Bills’ protest that made its way through the city centre from the Garden of Remembrance  to the gates of  the Dail.

There, campaigners waved some of the water bills that were issued to tens of thousands of homes by Irish Water before tearing them up and throwing them in a recycling  bin.

The first bills from the contentious utility have been dropping through letterboxes in recent weeks and groups like the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit have been calling for householders not to pay them.

While it was initially thought that Irish Water would be sending out most of its bills in April, the company has since confirmed that it will be June before it’s finished the process of sending out the first tranche of quarterly bills.

Residents in Donegal, Navan in Co Meath and Gorey in Co Wexford were among the first 37,000 to receive bills.

Protesters bin their bills.

A group called the Non-Payment Network, which organised the demonstration, had encouraged anyone who had already received a bill from Irish Water to bring it along on the march and dispose of it at the rally outside the Dail.

Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger said some of them were mock bills, “so people can practice what they’ll do when the real bill does come”.

“Most people haven’t received their bills,” she explained. “It has been very, very slow, certainly in the Dublin West area.”

Demonstrators had earlier converged on the Garden of Remembrance in bright spring  sunshine for the march to the Dáil.

Deputy Coppinger said the anti-water movement was focused on sending a message to the next government that imposing charges is futile.

“Today’s protest is specifically to push the non-payment message,” she said. “We are trying to get the message out there that people are going to be faced with the choice of whether they pay.

“The only way we will get the charges abolished is through the massive non-payment of bills and convincing people who are somewhat in the middle not to pay.”

Chanting ‘we won’t pay’, the large colourful  crowd, carrying bright banners and beating bodhrans, stretched almost the length of O’Connell Street as it made its way through the city.

Motorists were advised to expect delays as Dublin Bus told passengers that there were diversions on some routes.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly is to bring an update on the proposed legislation to Cabinet on Tuesday but his spokesman said the Water Services Bill is not expected to be signed off on at the weekly meeting.

“The matter is still being discussed at the Economic Management Council and is likely to be progressed next week,” the spokesman said. “No firm decisions have been taken yet.”