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City grinds to a halt as tens of thousands stage mass anti-water charge protest

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10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Placards during a Water Protest Assembly on Merrion Square Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

10/12/2014 Placards during a Water Protest Assembly on Merrion Square Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

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10/12/2014 Protesters during a Water Protest Assembly in Dublin City centre. Pic: Collins Photos.

The capital was brought to a standstill as thousands of demonstrators broke away from a mass anti-water charge rally and blocked the city's main thoroughfare.

As tens of thousands protested on Merrion Square, groups from all over the country filled O'Connell Bridge and closed the main arteries in to the capital.

Traffic is still being diverted away from the city centre, with commuters and motorists warned to expect delays in to the evening. The ring of steel protecting the Dail was nowhere to be seen on O’Connell Bridge, where a hardcore group later staged a sit down protest.

Protesters - chanting "no way, we won't pay" - said they broke away from the main event so they would be heard.

"They were playing music at Merrion Square, they weren't listening to us," said Gareth Davis, from Dublin Says No.

"We came here so our voices would be heard. It's having a much bigger impact.

“One woman gave out to us, saying she was two hours stuck on a bus and that we should be ashamed of ourselves and just pay our water.”

And that impact was evident, with traffic backing up even long before commuters tried to make their way home.

Dozens of empty double decker buses lined the quays, Westmoreland Street and O'Connell Street, the majority with 'not in service' displays.

At one point a loud thud could be heard on O’Connell Street when a Dublin Bus bumped in to the back of a Bus Eireann service, which then tried to manoeuvre itself the wrong way down a one way side street near Clearys.

Red Line Luas services were also suspended between Lower Abbey Street as groups lined the junction with O'Connell Street.

Services have also been delayed on the Green Line, with no service between Beechwood and St Stephens Green after a motorist accidentally drove onto the track at Charlemont.

Despite the numbers and anger, the atmosphere was generally light-hearted and peaceful across the capital.

As protesters began to disperse from Merrion Square, a large crowd remained at the junction of Nassau Street and Kildare Street.

A Garda on duty had suffered minor injuries when he was hit by a plastic bottle there, and an RTE News van in the vicinity has been defaced with the word 'Lies'.

Right2Water, the umbrella group of trade unions and left-leaning political parties who organised the rally, claimed the crowd numbered up to 100,000 at one stage.

However gardai give the figure as "in excess of 30,000".

Just two people were arrested for public order offences.

One of the organisers, Brendan Ogle, hit back at claims the retailers had suffered because of the rally.

“What tends to happens at these marches is that there is an increase in traffic for traders before and after the demonstrations, sand of course there is a drop off during the demonstrations,” he said.

“This is not about traders, This is about the people not being able to afford to pay for their water.

“This is about people being angry at austerity; this about people been angry at a Government which has lost connection with its people and it’s lost its right to mandate.

“The trade will come and go. There’s plenty more shopping days till Christmas.

"People have to make money, I understand that, that’s important, but it’s not the story of the day,” he told RTE’s Six One.

Earlier, a group of men dressed as Santa played music as they marched the length of O’Connell street, carrying the sign “No Pressies for Enda Kenny”.

“It’s like St Patrick’s Day without the parade,” said one man. “The atmosphere is great. There’s no trouble. It’s as peaceful as it can be.”

Single mother-of-two Evelyn Cunningham was one of 17 packed buses which set off from towns and villages across Co Donegal shortly after 6am.

“I was here on October 11th and a lot of people left here and went home and organised meetings and buses,” said the Letterkenny woman.

She said residents in Donegal live in the “forgotten country” and are already paying higher household charges than other counties following a council vote. Elsewhere most homeowners have sceptic tanks, while others have brown water coming from taps.

Also braving the winter chill that whipped up the River Liffey was Maggie McClure, who said the long road trip from Donegal was worth it.

“We have to do it,” she said.

“Everybody has to stick together. The Government wastes far too much money.

“Their wages and expenses are too high and they expect us to love on nothing.”

Wendy Holton, her daughter, granddaughter and their neighbours, were all on board one of four coaches that travelled from Carlow.

“Enough is enough, they have to start listening to the people of Ireland,” she said, stood in the path of several buses.

“I’m doing this for my grandchild.

“Ask Enda Kenny to live on €340 a week, and be expected to pay out more.”

Ms Holton also defended why so many people has obviously kept their children home from school to attend the march, saying that it had been okay for teachers to take a day off last week.

“We took them out of school because they are the future of the country,” she added.

Speaking to Matt Cooper on the Today FM’s ‘Last Word’, Socialist TD Paul Murphy said the protest exceeded ‘all expectations’.

“I’m very happy,” he said.

“We’re estimating perhaps 100,000 people were on the streets today, it’s difficult to tell but it’s definitely significant.

“It was beyond all expectations and it should give Minister Kenny food for thought when he says he’s been around the country and talked to the ‘reasonable people’.

“The government will be forced back on this issue or forced down.”

The Socialist TD said he believes it is ‘probable’ that the government could now abolish water.


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