In an almost poetic sense of irony the subject of water charges are as difficult to avoid these days as the Irish rain, and neither one is going to disappear any time soon. At present we have an all-out propaganda war waging between those who are trying to persuade the people to accept the conquest of our water supply by the State-sponsored quango Irish Water/Uisce Éireann, and those who are actively resisting this theft of yet another one of our natural resources. One side is using the might of the state and corporate media to spread lies, fear and division, while the people have to in the main rely on social media networks to spread our message. Although the motivation and political outlook behind those resisting may be generally broad, most will agree that this double taxation on what is an essential element to sustain life, and therefore, a basic human right, is a step too far by the fat cats in Leinster House. To make it clear, it cannot be emphasised enough that we already pay for our water through VAT and Motor Tax so this is in fact a double taxation. However after 6 years of austerity measures from consequetive governments it seems that the people have finally had enough. WE have had enough. Enough of being victims to the anti-social policies of the establishment parties; of staying on our knees while those that rule over us continue to live a lavish lifestyle at our expense; of seeing our friends, family and neighbours forced into the age-old cycle of ecconomic emigration; of being treated like fools while they laugh at us and our misery, and sneer at us with contempt when we question their power.
The day the unholy trinity of the Troika (EU/IMF/ECB) came to town we were told that they would cure our ecconomic woes and help us onto the road of recovery, if only we all just made a few small sacrifices to make up for living it up in the boom years. Tighten our belts we were told, sher hadn’t “we all partied” for the previous decade, as the late Brian Lenihan put it, so we should have expected a costly hangover. From the Universal Social Charge, to the property tax, to the water charges, and the many more charges, cuts and austerity measures that have crippled those of us at the bottom, it has proven to be very costly indeed. It seems those of us who’s lot didn’t improve much, or even worsened in many cases, were destined to pay the debts of the wealthy elite that accumilated so much more wealth the previous decade and Irish Water is just another way to make the poor pay for the lifestyes of the rich. Although it is being sold as a necessary move to bring our water supply services up to a modern standard and for the conservation of what truly is a valuable resource, the only motivation to put a monetary value on water is to eventually privatise it by selling it off to capitalist parasites who will have free rein of the “water market”. Water privatisation is not in the best interests of the public and as we’ve seen with our rising electricty and gas bills over the past few years, when our narutral resources are commodified we will be squeezed for every cent so that the Denis O’Brien’s of this world can further increase their massive wealth.
Wherever financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank go water privatisation is always soon to follow. All over the globe, from Africa to South America, and to our little island nation, water privatisation is always a pre-condition for any government looking for a hand-out from these financial vultures. It is no secret that the Troika have dictated the introduction of the water charges here, and despite the lies that these actions have been in our best interests, a brief look at the IMF’s role in water privatisation around the world will expose the terrifying reality of what we are facing. This is the new friendly face of imperialism, disguised in a suit and tie and acting in the supposed interest of ecconomic stability, and our government are their willing lackeys. So what does that make us? In line with historical imperialism, you could say we are the curious and naïve natives that welcomed the conquistadores to their shores half a millenium ago, only to be betrayed by their tribal leaders and left to the mercy of the Euorpean’s sword. With all that has changed over the past few centuries, some things just always seem to stay the same. The poorer classes in society have always been used as cannon fodder, but ecconomically and militarily, to protect the interests of those in power, and water charges/privatisation serve only those with wealth and power. This is an act of class war.
Alas, all is not lost. There are cases the world over of ordinary people stopping neo-liberal policies of their governments such as the privatisation of their water supplies. In fact water charges were defeated here in Ireland in the 1990s due to widespread resistance. Although it must be noted, the stakes are much higher this time around, for both the State and the public. An example of people power stopping water privatisation can be taken from the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, where in 2000 the local governments plans to privatise the water supply was reversed after a mass-mobilisation of the cities poorest people took to the streets and faced-off against the forces of the State. In this case the State struck down on the people using violence and repression and over 170 people were injured and one person, 17 year-old Victor Hugo Daza, was killed at the hand of the State forces. Though much milder in comparrison, in Ireland we can see an increased level of state violence against those who are resisting the water charges and this is something we need to be prepared to stand-up against. What happened in Cochabamba sparked a nationwide movement in Bolivia which not only lead to the reversal of water privatisation, but an entire overhaul of the currupt poltical system which was prevailant there. Something again which we in Ireland are only too familiar with and can indeed learn from.
Over the past few months there has been a growing number of community groups all across the country organising independently of political parties to resist the installation of water meters and the introduction of these unjust water charges. For the first time in a long time the Irish people are mobilising in resistance to a corrupt political class, and as Enda Kenny himself stated in an television interview not so long ago, “It’s not even about water charges anymore” – and how right he is! This is about so much more than water charges now. It is about democracy in it’s truest form, it is about people power, it is about creating a fairer and truly equal society, and most of all, it is about putting an end to the policies of austerity that have pillaged this nation for the past six years. What we are witnessing now is the awakening of a slumbering giant, the revival of a warrior people with a battle-hardened history, the reinvigoration of dormant slaves ready to face those that kept us in chains. And I say to my people’s masters, BEWARE…
Lar Ó Tuama