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Andrew Lynch: Can water protesters prove they are not yet a busted flush?


Water protests in Dublin last month

Water protests in Dublin last month

A water protestor

A water protestor


Water protests in Dublin last month

Enda Kenny must be praying for Irish water tomorrow.

Not the semi-state company that has inflicted terrible damage on his government throughout 2014, but the plain old H2O that falls from our skies.

Anything that dampens down turnout at the Right2Water rally would be good news for the Taoiseach, allowing him to claim that middle Ireland has finally decided to accept water charges and move on.

Right2Water obviously have very different hopes. They see it as their first chance to strike back since the Coalition unveiled its drastically reduced waters charge package three weeks ago.

A huge show of strength on Kildare Street could send the tide flowing back in the protesters' direction - and encourage anyone thinking of binning the bills that are due to start arriving next April.

Some of Right2Water's leaders already sound giddy with excitement. Richard Boyd Barrett has claimed that "hundreds of thousands" will take to the streets, a wild prediction that could well come back to haunt him.

His fellow left-wing TD Ruth Coppinger even thinks it could "sink the government", while Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty sees it as "the sucker punch" that may force an early general election.


So which side will be able to claim a PR victory tomorrow night? For a start, it must be said that Right2Water have picked a strange day for their latest gathering.

They are asking supporters to come out on a cold, windy, winter's afternoon just as the Christmas season is getting into full swing.

When asked about this, Right2Water say that they chose December 10 because it happens to be international Human Rights Day. Even some of their most loyal followers might see this as a bit over-the-top.

You may not like the idea of a new tax on water, but you can hardly compare it to causes like female genital mutilation in Africa or the barbaric treatment of Russian homosexuals.

There is other evidence that suggests Right2Water may be starting to lose the plot.

Whether they admit it or not, the movement made a bad mistake by failing to condemn the violence in Jobstown last month when Tanaiste Joan Burton was struck by a water balloon and trapped in her car.

They need to make sure that nothing remotely like that happens tomorrow - because if even one individual smashes a window or strikes a garda, the peaceful protesters will drift away for good.


All that said, Right2Water is far from being a busted flush. According to an opinion poll last week, only 48pc of households have decided to pay water bills while 33pc say they definitely will not.

Those figures could change quickly, but they do show that the battle over the issue has a long way to run.

The Government made a massive climbdown by slashing water charges to €60 for single-adult households and €160 for everybody else.

Irish Water itself has also made aneffort to change its arrogant tone, with CEO John Tierney recently making a grovelling apology to the Taoiseach for "falling well below the standards of service that you expect".

As Enda Kenny himself has admitted, however, these protests are about much more than just water. They represent an almighty challenge to his government's moral authority and one that he absolutely has to defeat.

This why Enda will be quietly urging the heavens to open over Dublin tomorrow - because right now he needs all the help he can get.