Trickle of protests turns into a flood

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By Tom Hickey

Columnist

Water meter installers arrived in our estate some months ago but no one protested. They carried out their work but didn’t install a meter outside my home for technical reasons.

And then residents began blocking the installers in Cork. Good old Rebel Cork. That action quickly spread nationwide and culminated recently in a huge protest in Dublin. In the years of austerity following the Republic’s banking disaster criticism of extra taxes like Universal Social Charges were loud and consistent. As taxes went up and services to the disabled, the disadvantaged and marginalised sectors were reduced, voices were raised, but protests were few.

We didn’t like the medicine, but got on with our lives, too busy trying to hang onto our jobs and pay the bills. Local Property Tax was introduced last year, and this time the agitation became a lot louder. Refuse to pay became the catch cry of the day, until we were told the Revenue Commissioners would enforce collection with the power to deduct payment from wages or social welfare. Ouch!

And then along came Irish Water. A trickle of protests became a flood as an unresponsive company and a series of startling revelations fired up a battered electorate. Enda Kenny promised a couple would only pay €238 for their water. Irish Water got €278. The Government pledged there would be a free child allowance of 38,000 litres. That became 21,000. Then there were revelations about the high pay and bonus culture at Irish Water.

More startling was the news that anyone who wanted to claim free water allowances would have to provide a PPS number. People refused and tore up their application forms. When the Government lost two by-elections with water being the dominant issue, the response was a swift tax concession for water bill payers.

So you’d imagine when my application form arrived I refused to sign. Eh, no. I filled it in like the good citizen I am. The only consolation is I’m not metered yet so can be as wasteful as I like. But I won’t, of course. I’m afraid my rebel days are over.

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