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25,000 expected to join water charges protest


Crowd barriers in readiness on Kildare Street ahead of the water charge protest at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke

Crowd barriers in readiness on Kildare Street ahead of the water charge protest at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke

Crowd barriers in readiness on Kildare Street ahead of the water charge protest at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke

GARDAI are preparing for up to 25,000 people joining the mass demonstration against water charges in Dublin this afternoon.

Busloads of protesters will arrive in the capital from early morning ahead of the assembly outside Leinster House on the Merrion Square side.

The event, which is being described as a national assembly by organisers, will kick off at 1pm and is expected to continue until 4pm.

The largest body of protesters will take part in marches from Harold’s Cross, Heuston Station and the Garden of Remembrance between 11am and 12pm.

Ten other locations north and south of the Liffey have been chosen as the starting points for marches by local campaign groups, and all will congregate at Merrion Square.

The Right2Water campaign has set up a stage for what it is describing as a “family-friendly event” featuring political addresses as well as musical entertainment, with performers including Sinead O’Connor.

Organisers have declined to give a figure of how many people they expect to attend, but are hopeful it will draw a “decent turnout”.

It is understood that gardai are preparing for a crowd of more than 25 ,000 people. An anti-water charges march on November 1 drew 100,000 demonstrators to the city centre.

David Gibney from the Right2Water campaign admitted it would be difficult to get huge numbers out because it is midweek, but he urged people to join in after they have finished their work for the day.

“It’s not only midweek, it’s the weather, and it’s the middle of winter and it’s 1pm in the afternoon,” he said.

“It’s going to be difficult, but we’ll just hope for a big turnout anyway.

“Some small businesses are closing because the owners are coming into it as well.”

Mr Gibney said they have “absolutely no fears” that the event will remain peaceful and will not be marred by the  violence seen at similar demonstrations in recent weeks.

“If you are not going to be peaceful, don’t come along. But we have absolutely no fears,” he added.

Some protesters have taken to social media to urge that the protests pass off without incident.

“No pots and pans in case they’re seen as weapons. Whistles are good and loud,” said Sandra MacGowan, who posts on the Right2Water Facebook pages .

Last night, gardai began erecting a ring of steel around the Dail ahead of today’s protests.

Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger said last week that the Dail will be “besieged” by the crowds today.

Meanwhile, TDs have been warned not to bring their cars to the Dail in case the anti-water charges protests turns violent.

A major security operation involving up to 700 gardai has been planned.

Senior officers have said the event would be policed as normal with rolling road closures, depending on the number of people who turn up.

“People know that it’s on, so it’s up to them how they want to get into town on the day,” a spokesperson said.

Gardai have urged people to take a common sense approach to getting into the city centre.

Extra troops have also been drafted in as back-up to the Military Police deployed on permanent security duties within Government Buildings on Merrion Street.

Today’s security operation will be coordinated from a control room in the Garda HQ building in Harcourt Square.

Officers will be using live camera feeds on the ground and in the air to monitor sections of the crowd.

It is understood that gardai will be able to pinpoint any disturbances and deal with them swiftly.

However, sources have said they do not believe that the protest is likely to be hijacked by a violent minority.

The People Before Profit Alliance called yesterday on people to “deregister” from Irish Water.

It said that it had received confirmation form the utility that those who have registered with the company but no longer wish to be a customer can call and close their accounts.

“I know of many people who registered over the last while and now regret having done so,” said John Lyons, a councillor for the party.

“Well, anyone who now wants to reverse that registration decision can do so by simply picking up the phone and letting Irish Water know where to go.”

Weather conditions during today’s protests will be cloudy and cold, with maximum temperatures of 5C and icy winds of more than 40kph.