Protesting about water

Tomorrow in Maynooth and in towns all across Ireland there will be public protests organised by Right2Water saying NO TO WATER CHARGES.

The leaflet dropped in the door says to bring whistles, bodhrans and placards. On Oct 11, about 100,000 people marched in Dublin and this is the next phase or widening protest nationally.

Lough Neagh
Lough Neagh

The leaflet is also right to say that the introduction of water charges in Ireland is, in effect, a new tax in order to pay the national bailout of Irish banks, especially Anglo-Irish Bank which cost the taxpayer (a private bank remember) about €80 BILLION if I remember right.

That remains a pretty impressive statistic for a population of 4.5 million people.

I’m also sympathetic to the protest at how the new company Irish Water has been set up: overstaffed, a private monoply, a whiff of jobs for the boys, bonuses already built in just for doing your job … etc Not that much seems to have changed in Ireland despite talk of root and branch reform to the way we do politics.

[As an aside – it also seems that the promised radical shake up of the Irish Civil Service is going to be a pretty toothless affair. My prediction for the next general election? The established parties are going to get hammered and Sinn Fein and the more radical left are going to advance in a way never seen before in Irish politics. And the Govt and Fianna Fail and the Irish “estabishment” will only have themselves to blame for being unable to imagine and actually implement change.]

So, a lot of people are very worked up about their ‘right 2 water’ being threatened.

But this week I also came across statistics from Tearfund like these

Currently, 2.5 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation and 900 million people lack safe water. As a result, 2.2 million children under five die from diarrhoeal diseases each year. Women and children in poorer countries spend hours each day collecting and carrying water. The weight of water carried can be more than 25 kilograms.

I don’t see and hear outrage and protests nationally about this sort of life and death injustice.

I do hear people getting very angry and upset at a first world problem of paying a tax. And I include myself in that category.

Comments, as ever, welcome


5 thoughts on “Protesting about water

  1. Paying a tax isn’t a first world problem. It’s actually the major problem that faces the majority world as well. Their export products are taxed excessively, limiting market availability and cycling their economies back into dependency mode.

    What is happening in Ireland (and Greece, Cyprus and to a lesser extent Spain and Portugal) is a new variety of this dynamic. Systemically, you might not be able to make the slice you are attempting here.

    Water is a fundamental necessity for human life. This is the basis of Tearfund and other Christian charities lobbying in favour of clean water provision for all human beings. Your conclusion seems mis-placed. That people are so concerned about the problem in Maynooth and Mullingar is going to create all the more momentum to be concerned about it in Mogadishu.

    • “That people are so concerned about the problem in Maynooth and Mullingar is going to create all the more momentum to be concerned about it in Mogadishu.”

      I hope you are right Kevin, I really do. My observation, which I include myself in, is that we often tend to get passionate about things that directly affect us. And this reveals deep (western) assumptions about what we expect as rights. Yet few people in human history have ever had the privilege of such assumptions.

  2. hi patrick. i am a silent reader and fan of your blog, which has informed my thinking and the odd sermon.

    As a Christian economist may I comment on water charges.  Economists always favour putting a price on something, if its free then people will abuse it.  (Experience shows that water charges elsewhere have reduced water consumption).  This potential abuse is built on orthodox economics’ view of man as pursuing ‘self interest’, something which coheres with a christian anthropology (though creation as well as fall is needed to complete it). Given the danger of abuse, if water is a precious natural resource (and not free to clean and transport) then a Christian ecologist should be pro water charges.

    On a bugbear issue for me the gross cost of the bank bailout was 64bn (net cost decreasing as bank stakes rise in value). About 40bn went on the national debt of just over 200bn, so its a fallacy to blame every cut and tax on the banks.

    • Greetings Fraser and welcome – always encouraging that something here might be of use and interaction makes blogging more enjoyable, so thanks for not staying silent!
      On the figures, yes, thanks for the correction; was guessing a bit with that number – ah sure what’s a few billion between friends?

      I’m not an economist like you, but a €200bn national debt is mind-boggling. From what I read that’s an increase of €160bn in national debt since 2006 and the financial crisis and it costs over €8bn to pay interest on the debt each year. It remains immoral and wrong for taxpayers to be paying over 60bn for private bank debt.

      Yes it makes business sense for Ireland to try to balance the budget and not continue to borrow billions each year (hence property tax, water tax, inreased income tax, USC, 41% (!!) on savings interest, plus raiding private pensions etc etc), And most European countries pay for water and have done for years. I know Germany a bit – and they value and treat water as a precious resource.

      But there remains a fundamental democratic deficit to this whole process and maybe that is what is sparking such outrage against water charges – and increasing alienation from the EU and govt parties which tow the line to the EU. Plus the whole inept way the Irish Water has been set up and water metering not even close to being installed across most of the country …

      The irish public have been pretty docile generally – is this the straw & camel’s back etc?

  3. i agree the burden of bank debt is wrong. On democratic deficit a majority of the dail was elected supporting water charges (fg and ff, not Lab.)

    To my mind a key issue here is about truth telling (media, all pol. parties, int groups) and lack of responsibility. Things we Irish have struggled with before, and which the church should have something to say on.

    We are not all innocent victims. A giant housing bubble like ours is a societal phenomenon ( though not universal). and we all benefitted in the tiger years from too little tax or too much spending (a majority of 120bn of our debt is from recent ongoing deficits).

    blaming it all on the banks or the troika or the rich / elite isnt right and wont help us grow up. but its good politics and explains some of the anger on the streets

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