I left Ireland for the Celtic Tiger and decided to return for the economic crash. The Ireland I returned too after a decade away was not my home. It was an alien land devoid of community spirit and the humour that echoed through the paper thin walls of our council house. We didn’t have neighbours, we had communal confessional booths and secrets we pretended to keep until we needed to use them. We knew who was depressed and could do with having something to do. A half used tin of paint might emerge and someone would need that person’s help with their fence. Or a cup of sugar that turned into a counselling session from an older neighbour who saw you, the night before, trying to flirt. Street cred was made up and “I’ll tell your mother” was the easiest way to make any tracksuit shut their mouth. We were poor. Everyone outside of Mahon knew that we were but in the old trees and unused fields that were my young summers I did not notice or care. Poverty was just a word in my child’s mind and as of yet it held no power. Deprived area, disadvantaged Mahon was our home and its streets were wild but you knew your neighbours and we were not alone.
The boom Ireland squandered its greatest resource, community spirit, and replaced it with isolation. A weapon created through a bombardment of imposed consumerism and the creation of greed. This fool’s gold promised a lot and delivered a vacuum. An empty space that community once filled. Armed with credit cards, second mortgages and perma tans the Irish ignored the death of its communities and sat in front of flat screens obediently watching society through the lens of a camera. This detached existence became the norm and the variety of lifestyles and difference that community creates was lost. This isolation is the single greatest weapon that the Irish government’s neo liberal capitalism has. It harnesses fear, greed and suffocates hope.
The water campaign has been a people’s revolt. A tidal wave of a single word. A clear outraged and exhausted NO. The slogan in Mahon is “Can’t pay; Won’t pay” and it is a simple truth that says it all. This is not a people who are standing together to make an intellectual point. Something the alphabet army of Ireland’s left could do with remembering! This is not an academic exercise in civil rights or social justice. It is a simple truth. People cannot pay this without suffering. They will have to take the 60euros out of a what exactly? Bonds, savings, off shore accounts or a 188 euros social welfare cheque. Or the worker who under Enda’s army serves as both the foot soldier and the tank for a wealthy class who will never really open their doors to them. How will they pay?
People do not have anything left to give and now it is time to fight. As we canvassed door to door for people’s support the words “THEY are not getting my water” or “THEY are not coming in here” and my favorite from Ballincollig “Sure we can have a BBQ while we are waiting for THEM on the green” have made me smile. THEY and THEM are not us. We do not accept Irish Water in our tribe! Our government has united us and given austerity a face. A creature we can fight with non payment, resisting the meters and publicly burning the bills. At last the fire I remember from my people is back. The flame that carried my pride as I traveled and worked away is starting to blaze and Connolly’s Ireland is opening its eyes.
Irish Water should be entering the Cork City limits (Mahon, Knockrea, Ballinlough, Tramore, City Hall B, Browningstown, Bishopstown, Glasheen, Mardyke, Gillabbey and Togher) within the next 3 weeks. We need to decide whether we will stand as whole or let this company invade our communities and turn our children’s water into a packaged commodity. A basic human right, gift wrapped for a nameless corporation, or do the fighting Irish rise again?
The sale of our water will not be the end of Irish austerity but it will see an overconfident government become more powerful and the end of any pretense of accountability. Water poverty will kill and disable our communities and is already doing so in America. Detroit Water Brigades’ Meeko Willams said;
“Last April, The City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department made a press announcement of a controversial water shutoff plan disconnecting 140,000 residents which is 40% of the Detroit population from water. Without sufficient warning to customers, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, then managed by Jones Day bankruptcy attorney, Kevyn Orr, began shutting off water services to residences which owed $150 or more……His water management plan sparked local, national and international protests bringing the United Nations to declare Detroit the site of a Human Rights Emergency.”
Stand with your neighbors and encourage your friends, families and colleagues from other communities to stand as well. Contact any of the below active Cork pages for advice or support in starting your own group or street meeting. Help and information will be given gladly.
Community Spirit is our greatest strength and it is something they can never tax, understand or destroy. Democracy has become a joke and the communities of Ireland need to reclaim their power and human rights. Our government has abandoned us, so we need to turn to each other to create a voice so loud it cannot be ignored and its call for social justice will become the defining chant of this generation. Water is a human right; never just another bill.
List of the active pages or groups within Cork –
– Water is a Human Right
– Blackrock says No
– Cobh Says No To Austerity
If Your group is not included here apologies and let us know so we can add you.