Missing The Point



People on the Right2Water rally against water charges in Dublin last Saturday

Diarmaid Ferriter misses the point about the movement against water charges. The key to understanding why hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets since 2014 lies not in a discussion about the abolition of rates during the 1970s but in the impact of austerity in this State since 2008.

The communities from which the water protests emerged were those who had suffered most from cutbacks under both Fianna Fáil and coalition governments. They were consistently told that there was no alternative to these policies. But the implementation of water charges was, for many, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The fact that, despite derision from commentators, the movement not only sustained itself but grew, makes it more likely that people will feel that protest over housing, child poverty and numerous other issues may also be successful.

Anyone who wants to see a “civic-minded Irish Republic” should therefore be applauding those who took part in the largest social movement in this country for decades.

Dr Brian Hanley,
Dublin 7.

Water charges and social protest (Irish Times letters page)

Previously: Torrential

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

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64 thoughts on “Missing The Point

  1. DubLoony

    But there hasn’t really been any other protests over other social issues such as housing and child poverty.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      He’s saying that those protests are more likely to happen now. Whether or not he’s right about that, he’s certainly right that people aren’t bussing across the country to march in the rain in order to save €30 or €40 a month.

    2. some old queen

      He is right. Street politics has finally arrived here and it scares the hell out of the official Ireland. It is logical that people will be easier to mobilise on other issues now, especially as they have won this one.

    3. Sheik Yahbouti

      Whataboutery at its finest. Good old ‘dublooney’ day in day out toeing the party line – uurgggh. As for Ferriter, for how much longer will he bore the t’ts off us, being THE authority on everything?

    1. Turgenev

      Exactly the attitude that caused austerity.
      Even during a bus strike people are now too selfish to give others a lift if they wait at bus stops, as was the norm during the strikes before the Tiger.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      “Paying more” than before the crash, and I’d be in that middle, but what I would be more concerned about is that fact that someone on €35k is in the highest tax bracket and according to an RTE Radio 1 report this morning, the person on €35k (“average wage”) pays 11 times more tax than someone on €25k… that’s more concerning than the highest earners paying a little more tax.

      It’s the low to low-middle is where the relief should be, not the high. And I do believe that article makes a point of that, but poorly as it’s headline focuses on higher salaries … I guess it is written to appeal to the Irish Times reader.

      My tuppence

          1. Hans Landa

            AND 36% of income earners pay no income tax at all and 29% pay no USC. With 2m people employed, we have 720k people not paying a penny in income tax

        1. Joe Small

          That figure of 50% on incomes of under €18,000 includes students and the unemployed. Nothing to do with actual earned pay at all.

          Lies, damned lies and misused statistics.

          1. DubLoony

            I would live to see proper stats on full time worker, median, not average income.
            I did see a thing recently where it was 27K.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          I hear you, but the lady on Morning Ireland definitely said one pays “11 times more tax” going from €25k to €35k.
          I took a quick look at Morning Ireland’s twitter feed, but no mention… on RTE.ie website they have this, link below, relating to the story but no mention of the ’11 times higher’…. I believe she was from the Irish Tax Institute…

          I know I wasn’t on an auditory trip :) I defo heard it….

      1. Kieran NYC

        I heard probably the same interviewee on The Last Word.

        The bottom 29% pay no income tax. The top 1% pay 20% of the total income tax take.

  2. ahjayzis

    It’s obvious for anyone who wants to see it.

    After the guts of a decade of austerity, water charges became the issue of revolt because the state issued the demand and the onus was on us to hand over the money like willing little gimps. Always before they just took it by decree and dumped it into the financial sectors black hole, now they wanted us to willingly give it to them.

    That’s why Irish Water was the focal point, not the monetary amount or general contentment with the state of our water infrastructure, there was a way to resist it.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      EXACTLY ahjaysis. They know it – hence the “whataboutery” and the general demonisation of water protesters. It became the ONLY avenue for citizen protest (which is a sad indictment in itself). However, the snug ‘n smug and the party drones will continue to belittle the protest. Let them. They are a busted flush, they just don’t know it yet. The parties are always at least ten years behind the populace.

      1. ahjayzis

        After DECADES of a corrupt government system, systemic ineptitude, cronyism, culminating in a wholesale fleecing of society to pay other people’s debts, asking people to ‘contribute’ a little more of their own free will would be a total humiliation too far.

        1. Hans Landa

          “Pay by use” is the fairest system anyone can come up with for any utility. If you can tell me what is so unfair about it, I’ll be at the next demonstration. Why should someone who uses resources more efficiently subsidize someone who is wasteful?
          But for now, the water protest movement is the embodiment of scroungers wanting more stuff for free. Public spending in 2015 is higher than it was in 2007 so not sure where all this continued ‘austerity’ thats being talked about is coming from. The reason these people are angry is because they’re afraid someone will stop spoon-feeding them and nannying them through life

          1. ahjayzis

            Why utilities and not services?

            Why should I pay the same if not more towards the education system when I have no children, but a couple ‘abusing’ the system by putting twelve kids through aren’t charged a premium?

            Why do I pay the same proportion of my taxes towards the health system as someone who is chronically ill?

            Because these things are public goods, and we pay for them progressively, as a community, a society.

          2. Sam

            Tell me Hans, apart from the fact that we already pay through general taxation, what exactly is fair about the price that citizens are expected to pay for clean water, compared to price paid by a factory using thousands of metic tonnes per day?

            Are we charging it as a resource or a product? Cos with products there is such a thing as bulk pricing to encourage more consumption, whereas with a scarce resource, one would be penalising a business that is using vast amounts of it (especially if they used loopholes to dodge paying taxes which built and maintained the pipe network to start with.

          3. ReproBertie

            Ahjayzis we already have pay by use systems in both the education and health systems just as we do in the public transport system. They are funded from central taxation but usage comes with a bill.

  3. Joe Small

    I think water charges became an issue because for the first time, people who otherwise were not making a financial contribution to the resources they were consuming, were asked to do so.
    Best of luck next time there’s sh1t in the water in your area and not enough money to invest in proper water infrastructure.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Well, you are mistaken. ‘joe small’. FG made a mistake, born of arrogance, that’s all. All previous outrageous impositions FOLLOWED legislation to copper fasten it. FF/FG neglected to crminalise protesters in advance on this particular occasion – hence the protests. Fellow citizens, I enjoin you, keep an eye out for further anti citizen legislation, and smother it at birthday.

    2. ahjayzis

      Sure, one could buy that, if you disregard everything else about the last 10 years.

      No one escaped the economic crisis without more being demanded of them. People on welfare, people in work, people on pensions, people with mortgages, people paying rent, people on low incomes, single mums, public sector workers, private sector workers. Drip by drip, to pay the debts of plutocrats and toward a budget deficit caused by a financial crisis caused by kleptocrats.

      It’s so lazy and self entitled of people who’ve seen their incomes plummet, their public and health services degrade drastically, their grasp on their home become more tenuous to at any point rise up and say enough is enough.

  4. isallimsaying

    Can we not all accept that paying for water is a conscientious and sensible endeavour?
    We’re one of few European countries that shun our environmental responsibility here.
    Granted, Bord Uisce appears to be a bureuacratic waste of time, money and maintenance (€81K per week in legal fees?). Once they mend the leaks and establish their stall, they should reduce their rates. However I doubt they will.
    My point is: 20 years ago we paid local council rates – this covered bin collection, road maintenance, residential parking, street lighting, water supply and so on. Today we still pay rates (and they’ve increased yearly) but we also pay extra for bin collection. We have to pay to park our cars outside our houses. and so on. But nobody’s complaining about these extra fees. So why water?
    Why not charge for water, but reduce rates, or income tax, so we can see where the money goes? Instead of propping up NAMA’s and the Siteserv’s and the Cerebruses. Remember the PPARS wastage, or the electronic Voting machines. Rant over.

    1. ahjayzis

      I really think if you want to sell the concept of a council tax, you need to beef up the local authorities.

      I pay whopper Council Tax in London, but I see how the council spends it – it goes on schools, libraries, pools, free bin collection, parks, playgrounds. The local authority actually has a visible presence.

      I’d be less happy paying it if I knew it was going to the Department of Finance for whatever bank came knocking with the begging bowl or whichever mandarin needed a golden handshake to leave a job they were awful at or whichever independent TD just won an unnecessary dual carriageway no one will ever use.

      Taft is right in his column today, contributing towards a government close to you, you may know the councilors, is a more natural, satisfying, transparent thing than sending it to Michael Noonan.

      1. Joe Small

        Tax goes to the Department of Public Expenditure, not the Department of Finance. Knowing how the Irish Government actually functions might help you make informed comments.

        1. ahjayzis

          The Revenue Commissioners are responsible to the Minister for Finance.
          Tax goes to Finance, PRSI goes to Social Protection. Public expenditure SPENDS the money, if it took it in there’d be no need for a Department of Finance too.

          It’s why the Finance Minister announces tax rate changes while the PE Minister announces how it’s to be spent…. after it’s allocated from DoF.

          It’s why the money we make from tax are called Exchequer returns – we haven’t had an Exchequer since like 1800, it’s name survives as a nickname for the DoF.

          *pats Joe’s head in a suitably condescending manner* Good boy, though.

  5. 15 cent

    i hate how this country is ran. it strips away my patriotism. i now see the tri-colour as the colours of greed, incompetence, and fuppin each other over. they just keep takin, takin, takin and then when we had literally nothing else to give, they came along with the water charges. and what made it worse, was it was so transparent, it was clear for all to see that it was just another way to funnel cash to the rich. after we had already been stripped of everything. and when we said “here, thats enough now, cmon” the government reacted with a ‘shut up and just pay’ contemptuous response. . . and that’s what really finally broke us down, and turned a normally subservient nation into protesters. and what has happened since then? while we’ve been protesting, while they’ve been trying different ways to ‘get the money off us’ (an actual line from barry cowen, whos onyl dyin to get into power and take on the water charges duties), whats happened is another string of controversaries and bumbling from the government. they can’t go a week without doing something detrimental to the country. i’m so angry, and so frustrated.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      15 cent, it is really, really sad that you hold these views. However, they are entirely correct and clear sighted. How can anyone disagree with you!

    2. Hog

      ‘Get the money off us’ .. that’s what this entire ‘global financial crisis’ bollocks has been about, a complete and utter funnelling of more of what we own to the already have-too-muches of the world … EFF THEM. NO MORE.

  6. Tony

    Like grand and all that, but what would these loons do if they had any control? Id be scared to think. Unions and the proletariat have no track record in building fairer societies. They just become worse that those they threw over. And listening to them, nothing proves to me this lot are anything more than whingers who would throw their own under the bus if there wasn’t a strike on.

    1. ahjayzis

      Unions and the proletariat have never held any power in Ireland.

      In the UK they built the social state, the NHS, nicer schools, brought in women’s rights, workplace rights. Things the Tories or Liberals would not have done.

      In Germany they’ve achieved a fairer balance between workers and industry bosses – and showed that that invigorates business, not stunts it.

      Unions fought for the invention of The Weekend FFS.

      By all means criticise the left in Ireland, but don’t talk rubbish about the worldwide Labour movement and it’s accomplishments.

    2. nellyb

      Tony, if you said something like that to western-european proletarian retirees, who fought in da big war and rebuilt entire countries – they’d tell you to get the f&ck back to where you came from. In many languages.

      1. Tony

        I give you russia, poland, east germany etc. the outcome of unions and that kind of thinking. Socialism at its finest. Only for the marshall plan and the widespread growth of capitalism, none of these societies would be able to afford the time off, the NHS, or any of the other triumphs you mention. Why have they been escaping from socialist countries for years to come here.

  7. Sheik Yahbouti

    Keep tugging that forelock, Tony – and don’t forget to genuflect whilst you’re doing it. It has served us so well up to now.

  8. Turgenev

    People would surely object less to paying for water if they were paying it to the State and if the water mains were visibly being mended.

    Anyone who’s seen any of the protests, by the way, know that the water charges are the focus, but austerity is at the centre of them.

  9. Truth in the News

    63 Billion thats borrowed + the interest and 13 Billion + thats ignored says
    a lot about who mis manages Ireland , and then try on a Water Tax, quite a
    few of the elite are in for shock, little wonder that RTE’s Dublin Correspondent
    stood on the steps of Dept of Justice close to a couple of Guards to view the march

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