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October 11, 2014 -- Irish Reuplican News -- Crowds not seen in several years have demonstrated against water
charges on the streets of Dublin city centre on October 11 as voters
delivered a stunning message of no confidence in two by-elections to
the Dublin parliament.
Traffic in Dublin’s city centre came to a standstill due to the
unprecedented collective anti-austerity march. The demonstration took
one hour and twenty minutes to pass the Spire in O’Connell Street asmarchers made their way from Parnell Square, around the city finishing at
the GPO in O’Connell Street.
While the Garda [police] press office could declined to give a figure for the
numbers in attendance, one garda observing the march admitted the
numbers could be as high as 100,000, a giant number by the standard of
Organisers of the rally, Right2Water, addressed the crowds outside the
GPO. “In the past, on various other issues, we have seen situations
where there have been protest, and nothing else”, said Brendan Ogle, a
spokesperson for the group. “This is one step; one early step people power mobilising against a
government that has abandoned them .[They] are trying to turn our human right to water into a commodity to
be sold. I think people are resisting this all around the country, and
today, it’ll be visible on the streets.”
Banners could be seen from communities across Dublin, and trade unions
Mandate, Unite, the CPSU, the Communication Workers Union and the
plasterers’ union, OPATSI, as well as Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party,
eirigi, and others.
There was huge anger directed at Taoiseach [prime minister] Enda Kenny, as well as the
Labour Party and at Tanaiste [deputy PM] Joan Burton in particular, for her
comments that anti-water charges protesters all seemed
to have expensive mobile phones.
A number of people carried placards with pairs of tin cans strung
together attached, with slogans such as “My little phoney, Joaney”
while one man was dressed as an iPhone.
Among the chants were, “Enda in your ivory tower, this is called people
power” and “From the rivers to the sea, Irish water will be free”.
Some of the placards said: “Sold out by our own Government”; “Stick
your water meters up your arse” and “Can’t pay, won’t pay”.
“Enough is enough”, said Kathleen McWilliams, a woman in her 50s from
Artane. “The property tax was bad enough but I have nothing left to
There was also anger directed at the mainstream media, which many
protesters pointed out had been ignoring anti-water meter protests
around the country.
One man was distributing plastic water meter hub caps which he said
could be used to ensure a household’s water supply while others were
handing out leaflets advising people that Irish Water did not have a
legal right to force people to sign a contract with them, could not
pursue money from people’s wages and could not cut off people’s water
People Before Profit TD [MP] Richard Boyd Barrett urged everyone to take "selfies" and email them to Tanaiste Joan Burton. “Let her wallpaper her office with all the photos of people here. Will
we pay the water charges?,” he asked, to which the crowd responded
loudly, “No, no, no.” He urged people to take part in planned
demonstrations around the State on November 1st.
“Today we brought Dublin to a standstill. On November 1st we will bring
the country to a standstill.”
The crowd was also addressed by Independent socialist TD Clare Daly,
Sinn Fein councillor Daithi Doolan Jimmy Kelly of the Unite trade union
and community activist John Bisset.
As the marchers were making their voices heard, the results of two
by-election have confirmed a massive swing to socialist, republican and
As counting began in the Dublin South-West and Roscommon South-Leitrim
constituencies, it quickly became immediately clear that a
transformed Irish electoral process would sent a radical message to the
In both constituencies, the combined vote for the three traditional
establishment parties -- Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour -- saw an
unprecedented collapse, falling to 45% in Roscommon/South Leitrim and
to just 26% in Dublin South-West.
In the Tallaght basketball arena, where the Dublin South-West vote was
counted, Sinn Fein’s Cathal King was narrowly pipped for a
seat by Paul Murphy of the Socialist Party. The dramatic count saw King
top the poll and hold the lead until the final count, and only with
transfers [preferences] from Fine Gael and a conservative independent candidate, did
Murphy pull ahead.
Paul Murphy (pictured above, second from left) is well known to republicans as the former member of the European Parliament (MEP) who was
arrested in 2011 by Israeli forces while taking part in anti-blockade
humanitarian mission to Gaza before being deported. He also set up the
scambridge.org website to expose unscrupulous practices of the
government’s "JobBridge" welfare-to-work scheme.
While political commentators have suggested Sinn Fein’s relatively
quiet campaign against water charges had allowed support to leak
towards the more-activist socialist candidate, the result was in many
ways a carbon copy of the Dublin West by-election in May, when Ruth
Coppinger of the Socialist Party pipped Sinn Fein’s Paul Donnelly,
again on right-wing transfers.
Cathal King admitted Sinn Fein’s policy on water charges did confuse
some voters. He said voters had been confused by his party pledging to
abolish water charges if in government, but saying they would keep
Irish Water in operation but funded through general taxation. He also
noted that Sinn Fein leaders had made conflicting and contradictory
statements in recent weeks about whether they would agree to pay the
charges or not.
The Socialists of the Anti-Austerity Alliance made easy capital from
such mixed messages as water "sign-up" forms began filtering through
post boxes in the constituency. Sinn Fein has vowed that it will abolish
water charges and the Water Board if in government, and have openly
urged people to boycott their water bills and join a campaign of
King said he was “delighted” with the first count result. He said he
would’t be paying his water charges but didn’t encourage voters to
follow his lead.
He told reporters in Tallaght: “I think it did confuse some
people trying to identify the difference between Irish Water -- the
company -- and actual water charges. We tried our best to get that message across -- that Irish Water isn’t
water charges. So yeah, it did confuse things a bit over the last
couple of days and some parties took advantage of that by misleading
people on our message.”
King pointed out that his party is the only realistic avenue for people
who wan’t the charges abolished. “Over 60 per cent of people have voted for parties that are against the
water charges”, he said. “We believe we’re the party to change that.
We’ve given 100 per cent commitment to abolish them and, if in
government, we will do that.”
He expressed disappointment at the low voter turnout of 34.5%. “There seems to be a bit of voter apathy out there, people aren’t happy
with what the government has done. People feel unfortunately that it
doesn’t make a difference to vote and we need to change that”, he
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he did not accept the party’s mixed
messages on water charges cost the party the seat.
"We never said we were going to win this seat”, Adams said at the count centre. “Elements of the media, some of the pundits, said
that Cathal was going to walk in, that he was a sure thing. We never
“We said the contrary, we said it would be a hard battle, it’s a very
volatile constituency and it could end up as it’s ended up, that we
would top the poll and then lose out on transfers.”
The Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald defended the party’s
position on the water charges. “Families will have to decide from themselves what they want to do. So
we’re not in the business of going around telling families how to deal
with their domestic business”, she said.
Socialists were understandably ecstatic about the result. “No! Way! We
won’t pay!”, they chanted, as Murphy was deemed to be elected. The new TD, who will represent the Anti-Austerity Alliance in the Dail [parliament],
told journalists that the coalition’s claims of an economic
recovery meant nothing to the people of Tallaght. He said: “Recovery is
for the rich, it’s for the 1%, it’s for the elite, it’s not for the
working class people”.
Meanwhile, in Roscommon South Leitrim, an independent associated with
the alternative anti-establishment organisation headed by Luke "Ming"
Flanagan is set for a resounding victory. Relative unknown Michael
Fitzmaurice (pictured, left), whose campaign was largely based on protecting the rights
of turf cutters, quickly outstripped his Fianna Fail competitor Ivan
Connaughton on transfers from eliminated candidates and will win the
seat on the 7th and final count, currently underway.
Fitzmaurice told reporters he spent the day tending cattle on his
farm while his campaign team tended the election count.
Sinn Fein’s Martin Kenny almost doubled the party’s vote, winning 18%
of the first-preference vote in another massive route of the government
Gerry Adams said the result was sending a “a very clear message to government that they have no mandate to do the type of things they are
doing”.Borrowing a phrase from the Taoiseach, he said “Fine Gael and Labour
have been walloped” in the by-elections.
DUBLIN SOUTH WEST RESULT
Cait Keane (FG) 2,110 (Eliminated count 7)
John Lahart 2,077 (FF) (Eliminated count 5)
Pamela Kearns 2,043 (LAB) (Eliminated count 6)
Cathal King (SF) 7,288 (Eliminated count 8)
Francis Noel Duffy (GP) 447 (Eliminated count 2)
Paul Murphy (AAA) 6,540 (Elected count 8)
Nicky Coules (PBP) 530 (Eliminated count 3)
Declan Burke (IND) 681 (Eliminated count 4)
Colm O’Keeffe (IND) 74 (Eliminated count 1)
Ronan McMahon (IND) 3,146 (Eliminated count 7)
Tony Rochford (IND) 92 (Eliminated count 1)
% share of the vote 2014 (change from 2011 in brackets):
Sinn Fein 30% (+13%)
Socialist/AAA 27% (+22%)
Independent/Others 15% (+12%)
Labour 9% (-27%)
Fine Gael 9% (-19%)
Fianna Fail 9% (-2%)
Green Party 2% (+1%)
ROSCOMMON SOUTH LEITRIM RESULT
Maura Hopkins (FG) 5,593 (Eliminated count 6)
Ivan Connaughton (FF) 7,334 (Eliminated count 7)
Martin Kenny (SF) 5,906 (Eliminated count 5)
John Kelly (LAB) 2,037 (Eliminated count 4)
Michael Fitzmaurice (IND) 6,220 (Elected count 7)
Emmet Corcoran (IND) 1,262 (Eliminated count 3)
John McDermott (IND) 2,944 (Eliminated count 4)
Gerry O’Boyle (IND) 82 (Eliminated count 1)
Tom Crosby (IND) 1,030 (Eliminated count 2)
Des Guckian (IND) 902 (Eliminated count 1)
% share of the vote 2014 (change from 2011 in brackets):
Independent 37% (+27%)
Fianna Fail 22% (-17%)
Sinn Fein 18% (+10%)
Fine Gael 17% (-22%)
Labour Party 6% (+4%)
Green Party - (-2%)