Thousands protest in Dublin against Household Charge

Between 8,000 and 10,000 people marched from O’Connell St to the National Convention Centre – site of the Fine Gael Árd Fheis – on Saturday to protest against the Government’s austerity policies and the Household Charge.

Just over 800,000 of those liable for the charge had paid by the time the deadline for payment on Saturday had passed. This represents some 44% or 50% of the households liable - the total is the subject of some dispute.

While the protest was ostensibly about the imposition of the Household Charge, many of those in attendance said that they were protesting against the Government’s austerity policies more generally. Said one protester, Catherine Burke: “I’m sick of paying for criminals. It’s all finally boiled over.”

Addressing the crowd gathered outside the Convention Centre, Gregor Kerr of the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes said that the Government “should be very afraid”:

“They don’t seem to get it do they – Shatter, Phil Hogan, Enda Kenny and the rest of them. Over one million have rejected this tax but they keep going on about a campaign led by 9 TDs.  Well, there are nine TDs involved in the campaign and it’s great to have them as an integral part of the campaign. But the rest of us aren’t some sort of dupes blindly following their lead and unable to think for ourselves.  Nor are there over a million of us who don’t know how to switch on a computer and register for this tax, or couldn’t find our way to our council office.

The people in there in the Convention Centre should be afraid – they should be very afraid. We are a people in revolt, we have realised our strength, we know now that when we organise together we can resist any of your threats. So go ahead do your worst – but you will be met by a determined, disciplined and controlled response that will show you that you cannot govern a people without their consent.”

For many of those we spoke to, Saturday’s event was the first time they’d taken to the streets to protest. Said John Crawley: “This is my first ever protest. I worked hard so I could buy a house. I am not paying again. I don't want my son to pay for this either - I'm here for him. I already pay €300 a week in tax, and I won't pay more so that they can bail out German bankers.”

Disillusionment with Fine Gael was another common theme amongst protesters, with a number saying that although they had voted for Fine Gael in the past, they wouldn’t do so again.

Said student and retired airline pilot Noel Leddon: “I have [voted for Fine Gael in the past] but won't again. Politicians, bankers, developers, regulators - they've thrown Ireland to the wolves.”

According to Una from Donegal, “I did [vote for Fine Gael] in the past but I won't again. I am disappointed with them - they have broken every promise.”

Particular ire was reserved for Alan Shatter, who earlier that day had said that those protesting against the Household Charge should “get a life”. Said Anne Heffernan from Dublin: “Alan Shatter said this morning that we should get a life. What about the 450,000 people on the dole who have no lives? Alan Shatter last year, he was coming to ordinary people looking for votes. And where is he now? Spitting in our faces.” {jathumbnailoff}

Additional reporting by Niamh Tumbleton and Philip Collins.

Images: Eadaoin O'Sullivan.