Tens of thousands of people have marched through Dublin, Ireland, in protest at controversial new municipal water charges introduced as part of the country's austerity deal with Europe. Irish Water started billing residents for water usage in April following an agreement made with creditors under the terms of the bailout plan in 2010.
The water charges were ordered by the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Union in a bid to boost the revenue raised from taxes in the Republic. Critics say the charges are having a catastrophic impact on the poorest members of society whilst barely impinging on the lives of the richest.
At a press conference for the event, union leader John Douglas said: "Ireland is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world where hundreds of thousands of us struggle to just get by… at the same time, a relatively small few flourish in barely imaginable wealth."
This was the fifth such protest organised by umbrella group Right2Water to take place in the last year. Between 80,000-100,000 are estimated to have joined the protest through Dublin despite appalling weather. One placard read: "Scrap fraud water charges or collapse next election." Many protesters are also demanding the country's water supply remain in public hands as there are suspicions the utility is to be privatised.
Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald TD (Teachta Dála) was among the speakers at the event, but the biggest cheers went to 16-year-old Jamie Harrington who made a passionate speech condemning Ireland's ruling coalition led by Fine Gael. Right2Water leader Brendan Ogle said Harrington knew more about what was happening in the country than "an entire f**king cabinet".
The protest was finally brought to a halt by a torrential downpour. Following the event the organisers put out a statement saying the campaign would continue until charges were abolished and "The Right2Water campaign will continue until that objective is achieved."