| 6.4°C Dublin

Anti-water charge protesters bring city to a standstill

Close

10/12/2014. Water Protest. Pictured Garda move in to remove water protesters on O Connoll Street Juction. Photo: Sam Boal/PHotocall Ireland

10/12/2014. Water Protest. Pictured Garda move in to remove water protesters on O Connoll Street Juction. Photo: Sam Boal/PHotocall Ireland

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre

/

10/12/2014. Water Protest. Pictured Garda move in to remove water protesters on O Connoll Street Juction. Photo: Sam Boal/PHotocall Ireland

a massive crowd of approximately 50,000 people brought Dublin city to a standstill as they voiced their opposition to water charges.

There was widespread traffic chaos from as early as 1pm yesterday as protesters made their way through the streets to Merrion Square.

Dublin Bus drivers were forced to halt their journeys as a breakaway group of protesters blocked off access to O'Connell Bridge from around 4.30pm. Diversions remained in place until at least 8pm last night when gardai moved in to remove the last of the protesters from the bridge.

On Kildare Street, a male garda was taken to hospital with facial injuries after being struck with a flag pole at 2.30pm as gardai prevented a group of demonstrators from breaking through barriers. The garda was brought to St James' Hospital, but has since been discharged.

offences

Six people were arrested in relation to the anti-water charge protests. A spokesperson for the gardai confirmed that five males and one female were arrested for public order offences.

Two of the men were arrested earlier on in the day, while the other four were arrested as gardai cleared O'Connell Bridge.

One witness, Keith Ryan, described the scenes when gardai came.

"About 150 of them walked up the quays and started grabbing people off the road. The public order unit at the front and gardai behind them," he said.

In a completely separate incident, one protester was taking to hospital after being struck by an SVU. The incident happened at around 3.30 pm at Butt Bridge, near Liberty Hall.

Protesters had blocked access for traffic on the road, when a vehicle mounted the curb in an attempt to bypass the blockade.

As demonstrators attempted to block the SVU, it collided with one man, who had to be taken to the Mater Hospital. Gardai are treating the incident as a road accident.

However, despite these minor incidents, the rally was largely peaceful and good-mannered.

Protesters began gathering at the Garden of Remembrance at Parnell Square from around midday, and quickly gained momentum as they marched down O'Connell Street towards Leinster House, joining up with other 'feeder' groups north and south of the city.

By 1pm tens of thousands met at Merrion Square, where organiser Brendan Ogle from Right2Water was joined on stage by supporters including Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and musicians Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard.

Organisers said a crowd of 100,000 had thronged the streets, but garda estimates put the figure closer to 50,000.

Mr Adams, who was joined at the protest by deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, said the water charges have become a "catalyst for uniting people".

"The Government is totally and absolutely wrong in how it's pursuing austerity policies. It won't listen to the people," he told the Herald.

Despite the rally, Environment Minister Alan Kelly claimed that "nothing is going to change in relation to water charges" and that "the vast majority of people will pay".

performed

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett warned: "It'll be a very foolish Government that tries to face down a movement that is on such an unprecedented scale. This Government will rue the day."

Star of Oscar-winning film Once and The Frames frontman Hansard, who performed on stage alongside fellow Dubliner Damien Dempsey, said he hopes the public outcry against water charges "gets bigger".

"This is a really important gathering," he told the Herald.

"There's a certain point where you just say 'no'. And it feels like if we're not there now, we're very close."

Dempsey repeated his call for a referendum which would ensure that Irish Water could not be privatised in the future.

"You're going to see a lot more of this from now on. The Irish people are waking up, it is the last straw," he added.

hnews@herald.ie


Privacy