Burn the Bondholders Say Protestors Marching in DublinJoe Brennan
Thousands of Irish demonstrators took to the streets in a mass protest against water charges, amid renewed anger stemming from the state rescue of the nation’s financial system.
Right2Water, organizers of the anti-water charge protests, estimated as many as 80,000 people joined the demonstration in Dublin. Police said more than 30,000 people attended the march.
Addressing a crowd gathered outside government buildings, Diarmuid O’Flynn, head of a protest group against bank bailouts from Ballyhea in Cork, led a chant: “Burn the bondholders.”
The introduction of water charges is proving to be Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s government biggest challenge since taking power in 2011, as voters grow weary of austerity. Public resistance to the charges was amplified by the revelation that junior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank Corp. may be entitled to a payout even after the taxpayer sunk 35 billion euros ($43.4 billion) into the lender.
“I’m here protesting at the odious bank debt put on the backs of Irish people,” said Clare Leonard, who said she runs her own business in Dublin. “We’re carrying it for the bondholders. We wouldn’t otherwise have water charges or property taxes.”
Alone among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations in not charging directly for water, Ireland agreed to bring in such levies under its 2010 international bailout. Last month, Kenny sought to defuse resistance to water charges in Ireland by capping the levy until 2019, and cutting the charge.
“The government has listened and we have moved as far as we can,” Paudie Coffey, a junior minister at the Environment Ministry, said in an interview with state-owned RTE Radio today. “There will be no change.”
Protesters flung small missiles and water bottles at police, state broadcaster RTE said, with one officer treated for an eye injury as demonstrators sought to break through a barrier close to the parliament building in the city center.
Opposition party Sinn Fein is criticizing the government for proceeding with the water charge after it emerged last month that junior bondholders in now-defunct Anglo Irish may get money from the lender’s liquidation.
The bank, renamed Irish Bank Resolution Corp. in 2011, was bailed out before the government ordered its wind-up last year. Two successive governments have introduced about 30 billion euros of austerity measures since 2008 to cut the nation’s budget deficit.
“I’m just up here today because of the bank bailout,” said Bobby Phelan from Waterford in southern Ireland. “I don’t think it’s our debt. Today’s protests are more than just about water, they’re about the bank bailout.”