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Irish government unleashes "dogs of war" against anti-water charges movement
Cillian Gillespie and Mick Barry, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland)
"Call off the dogs of war on people in Jobstown." These were the words of Socialist Party TD (member of parliament) Ruth Coppinger when she challenged the Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Joan Burton in the Dáil (Irish parliament) on 12 February. She was speaking against the shameful political policing that has resulted, at the time of writing, in the arrests of 23 anti-water charges activists and protesters in Dublin.
Gardaí (police) have mounted dawn raids on homes arresting the 23 for participating in a protest against Burton herself in the working class community of Jobstown in November. During the protest her ministerial Mercedes was impeded for two hours as the protesters staged a peaceful sit-down protest in front of it. For doing so, those who have been arrested face potential charges of unlawful imprisonment of Joan Burton!
Each day we have woken to hear of fresh arrests, with some newspapers reporting (no doubt having been tipped off by the Gardaí) that the number of those arrested is likely to rise to 40 people. This is an attack on the mass movement of working class people against water charges which, after six years of brutal austerity in Ireland, has been active since last September.
It is also an attack on the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA), which includes the Socialist Party and has been to the forefront of the battle against this austerity tax. Among the first group of four to be arrested on 9 February were Socialist Party members AAA TD Paul Murphy and AAA councillors Mick Murphy and Kieran Mahon.
Incredibly, six Gardaí called to Paul's home before 7am and brought him to the local Garda station where he was questioned for eight hours. An enormous amount of Garda resources have gone into the arrests that have taken place, for example eight and ten Gardaí were deployed to arrest two teenagers aged 14 and 16 years old.
Did government ministers put pressure on the Gardaí to take these actions? Did they give them the green light? It is entirely possible that they did. But even if they did not, the Garda action is still political in its essence. The Garda commissioner is appointed by the government and both government and Gardaí defend the same capitalist establishment shaken by the power and the scope of the anti-water charges movement.
The role of the Gardaí as enforcers for Irish Water, water metering and the hated water charges has torn the veil of Garda 'impartiality' from the eyes of many in recent months.
The Socialist Party demands that this political policing be ended. The Gardaí should have no role to play in policing community campaigns and struggles by working class people. Democratic control of the Gardaí by working class communities is needed as an alternative to being run as a centralised force led by a government-appointed commissioner.
This political attack will be fought until the case is dropped or the charges defeated. Of course, the attack will be fought using legal weaponry - the weak case of the establishment will be subjected to the strongest legal scrutiny and exposure.
But first and foremost, a political attack must be fought politically. A good first step has been the exposing of the hypocrisy of these charges by the AAA and other left TDs. Protests have been organised against political policing. Over 600 attended a protest, called at relatively short notice, outside the Department of Justice the day Ruth challenged Joan Burton in the Dáil and a similar number protested in Tallaght two days later.
The questions asked by the TDs have weakened the Garda case: Why is a working class community being penalised for actions similar to those taken in the past, for example by students, without penalty? Why are such huge Garda resources being put into this case when real crime affecting communities goes unpunished due to scant Garda resources?
The anti-water charges movement has clearly shaken the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government and the capitalist establishment generally. A series of mass national demonstrations have seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets and thousands of working class people have been activated in opposition to the charge and to the installation of water metres.
The number of local campaigns that have sprung up is illustrated by the fact that there are approximately 350 Facebook pages of different local campaigns across the country. The scale and size of the movement forced the government to make a number of concessions before Christmas, including the water charges being introduced at a smaller flat rate charge until 2019 and also that the water pressure of non-payers could not be turned down.
Nearly half of those who were liable to do so did not register with Irish Water (the company set up to administer the water charge) by the time of the deadline of 2 February. Polls have consistently shown that one-third of the population will not pay the water charge.
We Won't Pay
In the coming months the AAA and the We Won't Pay campaign will be seeking to build a campaign of mass non-payment to ensure a majority of householders don't pay the water charges bills that arrive in April and May.
The anti-water charges movement needs to link the defensive battle against the arrests in Jobstown by the state with an offensive one that organises non-payment. We can sink Irish Water and in doing so bring down this austerity government.
The Socialist Party and AAA will be energetically building a campaign to defeat water charges in the coming weeks and months. We also want to build a mass party of the left that can be a real alternative to all the main parties of Ireland's capitalist class. An active movement of working class people that is based on non-payment of the water charges can lay the real basis for the building of such a party.
In The Socialist 18 February 2015:
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