Protest against political arrests in Ireland

Campaigners against government’s water tax are targeted in police crackdown

Socialist Action (CWI) reporters

A police crackdown in Ireland has so far seen 17 people arrested for taking part in protests against austerity polices and the government’s new water charges. Among those arrested are three elected representatives of the Anti-Austerity Alliance including Paul Murphy, a member of the Irish parliament (Dail) and prominent member of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI).  The youngest of those arrested is a 14-year old, in what is widely viewed as political policing in an attempt by the government to quell the mass anti-water charges movement.

On 12 February, 1,000 people joined a protest at the Department of Justice against the arrests. Solidarity protests have also been staged internationally, in London, Berlin, Belfast, Vienna and Sweden. A protest is planned at the Irish Consulate in Hong Kong.

Protesters were arrested on suspicion of ‘false Imprisonment’ – a serious charge that can lead to up to 15 years in prison. This accusation relates to a demonstration last November in Jobstown that targeted Deputy Prime Minister and leading Labour Party politician Joan Burton. Burton’s car was surrounded and unable to drive away as protesters raised their opposition to the water charges.

There are signs that the police intend to continue with these political arrests for some time. This tactic, to discourage people from joining anti-government protests will be very familiar to people in Hong Kong and China. Some may be shocked that this also takes place in a ‘democracy’ – which Ireland claims to be.

Mass non-payment

Ireland has been shaken by a mass movement against austerity policies, for which the water charges have acted as a trigger. In October, 100,000 took to the streets of Dublin to protest against the charges, with similar large protests in November and December. The Anti-Austerity Alliance and the supporters of the CWI in Ireland advocate mass non-payment as a tactic to defeat the water charges.

The AAA’s Paul Murphy told, “In April people will be sent their first bills for water. We are advocating that people boycott the bills and refuse to pay them. If we get large non-payment we will see a serious escalation of the pressure on the government on this issue.”

“For 6 years we have seen vicious austerity being imposed by successive Irish governments and the troika [IMF, European Union and Central Bank]. There has been a serious erosion of the living standards of working people. Public services have been devastated resulting in an acute crisis in hospitals and in schools.”

He linked the current police crackdown to the critical stage the anti-water tax struggle has reached: “The stakes are high and the government know this. This is why we are now seeing attempts to damage the movement with these arrests.”

Solidarity with arrested protestors of Anti-Austerity Alliance in Ireland

Time: 18 Feb 12:00pm
Place: Admiralty MTR Exit F -> Consulate General of Ireland Suite 1408, Two Pacific Place 88 Queensway
Contact: 9418 9988