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Upwards of 10,000 people turned out in an anti repression demonstration in Dublin today. The demonstration came after weeks of arrests in Tallaght and the imprisonment of 4 people last Thursday for breaking an injunction. The injunction is designed to criminalise effective protests in blockading water meters.
People marched from the Central Bank in Dublin’s city center to Mountjoy prison in the north inner city. The Golden Ball outside the Central Bank provided an ideal starting point as it is emblematic of the opulent cocaine fueled financial and economic ideology that has shattered the very communities that turned out today. The Central Bank are planning to spend €500,000 of tax payers money on moving the ball to it new HQ at a time that community project budgets have been slashed by €400,000.
Bernie Hughes, Richie Larkin, Damien O’Neill, Mark Egan, Michael Batty, Derek Byrne and Paul Moore were all charged with contempt of court last Thursday for taking part in demonstrations against the installations of water meters. Their imprisonment follows weeks of arrests by police under pressure to construct a case of false imprisonment relating to a blockade of deputy prime minister Joan Burton.
Last night Socialist Party and AAA TD Paul Murphy was a guest on the Late Late show and was questioned by Ryan Tubridy about Irish Water protests in an interview widely lambasted as both comical and biased. All this is in line with a constructed narrative which seems solely designed to frame ‘good protest’ as standing about in a street, and ‘bad protest’ as anything that isn’t that.
No doubt the government has felt that the anti water tax movement will dissipate and that people will be turned off by media spin and misrepresentation of events on the ground. And it could well be the case that this strategy may way be seen by them to pay off if there isnt a large mobilisation on 21st March.
However the repression, demonisation, arrests and imprisonment of people, mostly coming from working class communities with pre-existing tension with the Irish police force, is also having a effect of galvanisation and politicisation. This will play out not just in the coming elections, but more broadly in grassroots and community struggle. As Fine Gael drink themselves silly tonight at their annual shindig, they might ponder if further antagonising communities on the brink is a wise strategy or if doing away with Irish Water is the most pragmatic political choice for them.
Because the numbers at todays demonstration, which was called a few days ago, saw far higher numbers than expected by myself and any one I had chatted to in advance
About 800 people had gathered at the Central Bank, but this swelled as the march weaved along College Green onto O Connell street, up Parnell Sq, along Dorset Street and up North Cirular Rd to Mountjoy Prison. By the time it the head of the march has reached the prison Id estimate there was about 8000, though I’m awaiting the numbers from a professional crowd counter A Flood.
There were impassioned speeches from some of those brought before the courts and from Jessie Hughes, whose mother Bernie was in Mountjoy prison. The three others were transferred earlier today to Wheatfield prison. The was also contributions from Paul Murphy, and artist Robert Ballagh. Ballagh made the point, after opening his coat to show a white shirt and tie, that rarely did white collar criminals ever spend a night in Mountjoy Prison, whilst working class communities feel full state repression for not staying in their box.
During one contribution a statement was read out from Derek Byrne stating he had started to refused both food and fluids in prison and will continue to do so until his release. Personally Im very much opposed to hunger strikes like this. I think they are politically dangerous and counter productive. Though it perhaps is a sign of genuine stress, intimidation and last stand to try to undertake this. So I feel and empathise for Derek Byrne, even though I disagree with his actions in this context. Its something to keep a close eye on for sure.
UPDATE: Derek Byrne is on hungerstrike until his return to Mountjoy.
His state as posted on FB is
This is Siobhan Walsh releasing a statement on behalf of Mr Derek Byrne. We have been locked up/confined to a cell for the last 3 days on complete lock down in Wheatfield Prison. We were moved out of Mountjoy because of a political decision. We have taken the steps to go on hunger strike and have been on hunger strike since yesterday, If we are not moved back to Mountjoy Training Unit as we were told we would be then on Monday morning we will be taking it further and refusing fluids until we are moved back to Mountjoy. It is harder for our families to make the journey to Clondalkin to visit us. Every decision made from our court cases to our incarceration has been of a political nature. 2 young children are been kept from their Father and are now in an emotionally distraught state , their Mothers are now been denied financial aid by the Father as he is currently been incarcerated by the state as he refuses to back down from 1. a point of principle and 2. he believes there is a better way forward for the people of this country. We ask that there be daily protests at shopping centers connected to main roads and to keep our stories highlighted. We ask that the politicians (All TD’s FG LB FF) are made to pay for these decisions and for people to hold SILENT PEACEFUL CANDLE VIGILS outside their houses. David McGuiness of FF has said that the water meter protests have led to an increase of burglaries and other areas, NOT TRUE! Water meter protests have nothing to do with an increase in crime, lack of Garda resources and funding by the government have led to an increase in crime, Water meter protesters have committed No crime!. These are the people that are standing and fighting for a better future for everyone in this country. We again ask that Enda Kenny & his government resign. We’d like to thank everyone for their support and continued support. Derek Byrne.