12 January 2015 Edition
Right2Water say huge protests will continue
From Dublin to Detroit, water is a human right
THE tens of thousands of people who gathered outside Government Buildings in Dublin on 10 December had a very clear and simple message for Fine Gael and Labour: ‘We aren’t going away until domestic water charges are scrapped.’
The huge, peaceful and good-natured protest was a slap in the face to those in the Establishment media and the main parties who have tried to demonise protesters and claim the Government’s concessions would quell dissent. The public know that once domestic water charges are in, they are only going to go one way – and that’s up.
One of those groups taking part in the protest and who have seen the chaos the imposition such charges cause is a small group of activists from the United States known as the Detroit Water Brigade (DWB).
DWB volunteers deliver emergency relief to families facing water shut-offs as well as advocating for a Water Affordability Plan in the city. The group came to prominence after Detroit became the largest US city in history to file for bankruptcy in July 2013.
Residents of Detroit face charges of more than $750 (over €600) a year for water. Those who did not or could not pay found their water cut off. The move by the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department saw the United Nations weigh-in and criticise the decisions to stop water supplies. Water is a human right, the UN declared.
CBS News Detroit reports that almost half of households in the city cannot afford to pay their water bills with 27,000 homes being cut-off in 2014.
DeMeeko Williams, a student and Political Director for the Detroit Water Brigade, was one of four members of the DWB to come to Ireland to take part in the Right2Water protest in December.
Speaking to An Phoblacht at the rally, he said:
“We have no say on water charges in Detroit. We pay some of the highest water rates on the planet even though we sit on one of the largest bodies of water in the world – the Great Lakes – that has over 20% of the world’s supply of fresh water.
“It’s being privatised and sold-off to the highest bidder. We’ve seen firsthand the aggressive ‘shut-off’ campaign in Detroit leaving thousands of families without any water and we can’t allow that to happen here in Ireland.”
‘AtPeace’ Makita Taylor, a spokesperson and Creative Director for DWB, says having the water to your home cut off is very traumatic.
“Sports stadiums and golf courses who owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for water charges weren’t shut off. Low-income families who are just $150 dollars behind are penalised but not the city’s big corporations.”
Right2Water campaigners say opposition to the charges will continue across the state. In a statement, the campaign group says:
“Clearly this government is not listening to the people so we need to reflect on our successes to date and work on building an even larger movement.”
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD, who was one of the platform speakers at the December rally, said:
“People power has already forced this arrogant government to make concessions on its water policy. This is not something they wanted to do but people power ensured that they had no choice.
“If the Government was listening to the huge numbers who have taken to the streets, as it claims it has, they would know that they are demanding that the Water Tax is scrapped, not capped. The only acceptable solution is to abolish water charges and to dismantle Irish Water.”
Another Right2Water Rally is planned for Dublin on Saturday 31 January. The public are asked to check the Right2Water.ie website for details.