So I went out for a drink the other night with a friend of mine, a very successful person in his own business, with all the accompanying problems related to a successful, independent business in this country and he says to me, ‘water charges will come in, it’s the way it is, Irish people are like sheep, they’ll go wherever they’re herded.’
And I said, no, that’s not true and it’s his kind of negative thinking that the authorities rely on and the people, without any notion of hope, will believe.
One month ago, an English friend of mine who pays for her water to a private company, opined that it might not be such a bad thing to have metered water supply, as her own water supply was from a private water company. I replied, Were that it were as simple affair as paying water rates to a public authority, Lizzie, there wouldn’t be half as much trouble. Our water supply system is antiquated and, despite the taxes and rates paid in the past, it has been allowed to deteriorate so that water in many areas is undrinkable and there is an appalling level of waste. As if that weren’t enough, while bailing out Europe from bank debt, the Irish taxpayer is now being asked to surrender, under law, vital private information, to a privately owned, independent company who will then have exclusive, monopolistic access to our water supply that they will dish out through metered pipelines.Now, apart from anything else this creates the horror of our water system being sold to corporate interests, of which there is more than adequate international precedent.
And these are not like your old style gas or electric meter. You won’t be able to turn them off. Instead, it will measure your consumption and then demand payment. And, as if that weren’t enough, they’ve turned the Irish police force into what is effectively a private security firm in such an alienating fashion, it borders on the kind of totalitarian tool that could only be conjured by Huxley, in a nightmare. The media, meanwhile, are cowed and silenced by the Government and their shareholders with vested interests in the success of Irish Water Inc.
Since I wrote that, there have been countless public and nationwide, often physical, protests against the installation of these meters. In the process, Irish citizens, protesting, as is their expressed constitutional right, have been harassed and often arrested, under the, often dubiously speculative application of, the Public Order Act, while the Garda Siochana, the so called Guardians of the Peace have been perceived and seen to act as a private security company for the water meter installation company, GMC Sierra, whose employees are operating on an installation incentive of €25 each, per metre installed.
Now, you have to consider the ownership of the company employed to install the meters, GMC Sierra. It is owned by Siteserv, a company that is, in turn owned by Millington, an investment company owned by billionaire investor, Denis O’Brien. And all that might not be so strange, unless you consider the deafening silence, underestimation, and misreporting involved in the coverage of the whole water charges protest. It turns out Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp is the largest, single, private owner of Irish media interests. To jump from that, to say he controls the media, would be an insult to my former colleagues in the newspaper business but I’m sure they feel uncomfortable wearing muzzles.
Last weekend, in two bye elections, the Government was delivered a resounding message; water charges are on the agenda and the public’s answer is ‘no’. And if they missed that message, more than 100,000 people marched the streets of Dublin, representing and backed by far more than twice that number, and guess what their message was, yup, NO, NO, NO.
Of course, the Government, as all ruling parties do, under threat, reacted. So, one week after the deputy prime minister or ‘tanaiste’, (by now, jokingly, the leader of the so called, but with little meaning, Labour Party) expressed her outrage and apparent surprise at protesters using expensive phones to record the Irish Gardai’s use of excessive and inappropriate force; the Government, of which her party is a minor partnership member, dangled a carrot of increased allowances and tax reliefs, in a classic, and defeatist effort, to split the opposition. And still they persist in their delusion.
So, I’ll leave you with this poem I wrote, though I’m a writer, not a poet, although a friend of mine told me, Poetry is just a pungent and condensed way of using language. The difference between poetry and prose is that the words are fewer and work harder. I think that’s all happening in your poem for sure, which was kind of him. At least I can say, it was written in rage and with all my heart.
So here it is,
The true cost?
Bums in the air,
knees on the tiles,
through our worn smiles;
laugh? I cried,
how much? I smiled
and then paid
while they fucked me
with taxes for bankers,
and then nothing,
not even our rivers,