Water charges 'here to stay' despite protests, says Alan Kelly
Water charges and Irish Water are here to stay, Environment Minister Alan Kelly has insisted.
"There is utterly no question of a change of plan. Irish Water and water charges are here to stay as a means of providing investment and the development of national services fit for the 21st century," a spokesman for the Department of the Environment told the Herald.
The government official acknowledged every citizen's right to peaceful protest, but he also argued that the Government had already introduced "certainty and affordability" to the charges.
The comments came after a big turnout at an anti-water charge demonstration on Saturday in Dublin. All sides agreed that 'tens of thousands' attended the meeting in O'Connell Street after demonstrators marched from the capital's two main train stations.
While some official sources disputed the organisers' claims of 80,000 people attending, well-placed political sources conceded that water charges will now be a major issue in the forthcoming general election.
Yesterday, supporters on Hill 16 displayed a massive flag protesting against water charges during the Dublin V Mayo semi-final at Croke Park.
Both Fine Gael and Labour had hoped earlier this year that the political intensity surrounding the issue could be defused, but now the danger is that those who have signed up and paid may have a rethink.
Independent TD Finian McGrath said the protest sent a clear message that water charges must be abolished.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald urged the Government to use the October Budget to abolish the charges and described Irish Water as "one fiasco after the other".
Meanwhile, Renua Ireland's deputy leader Billy Timmins said that Irish Water must be abolished as unfit for purpose. However, he said funding must be found for investment in water services.
He also criticised "the political cowardice" of those who are opposing water charges purely for electoral advantage.