Port won’t pay, despite smaller crowd at march

Although there was less than one third of the crowd who turned out before Christmas, the battle against the water charges remains strong in Portarlington.

Although there was less than one third of the crowd who turned out before Christmas, the battle against the water charges remains strong in Portarlington.

Around 500 people turned out in the bitter cold with the same message - “no way, we won’t pay.”

With chants of “Kenny, Kenny - out, out out” and “Banks got baled out, we got sold out,” people marched from St Michael’s Church Car Park, on to the Link Road down to the roundabout at Station Road and back down Main Street, where a stage had been set up in the Square.

The protest was very much a community effort with generations of families coming together and neighbours taking to the streets. From buggies to wheelchairs - all ages were represented in Port.

Barry Keegan, spokesperson for Portarlington Against Double Water Tax said water charges were going to become very real when the first bill arrives on April 1.

He said the march was about giving people the knowledge and confidence to decide whether to pay or not.

He attributed the smaller turnout to people thinking the water protest had gone away.

“I know not as many people came out today, they think the water thing is gone away. Talk of the €100 grant doesn’t mean anything. It’s just to get you paying, get you in the system. Once they have you in three years time paying a lot more,” he said.

Barry continued: “Some people are afraid, the government are trying to put fear into them with different talk of what will happen if you don’t pay. In the Irish Water Act 2015, you can’t be fined until July 2016. With that knowledge, everyone can calmly not pay until 2016 if they don’t want to.”

A passionate Mary Oakley made it clear that she was not a customer of Irish Water.

“I want to make something clear to the entity that is Irish Water. I am a citizen, not a customer. I contract to be a customer, I sign documents to be a customer, and I certainly didn’t sign any documents with Irish Water.”

Ms Oakley said the water charges were going to take the humainty out of people and put them into survival mode.

“Remember in 2010 whenour pipes froze. The neighbours who had water were out with garden hoses putting water into our houses and helping each other out. Can you imagine if you’re paying a load of money for water if you would come out and do that? You just wouldn’t be able to afford it. It takes the humanity out of it, it takes the kindness out of you and it puts you into survival,” she said.

Ms Oakley encouraged people to “do what your heart tells you what to do and stop being afraid.”

She asked people not to go against their best judgement, and refuse to accept Irish Water.

“The reason for today’s march was to reassure people that we’re not gone anywhere, the fight is still on,” she said to a rousing roar from the crowd.