Article from the Mar. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
After 12 February demo
by Gary Mulcahy
ON 12 February, hundreds of people braved the stormy weather to march against water charges in Belfast, Derry, Enniskillen and Cookstown.
The "We Won't Pay Campaign" had the largest and most lively contingent in Belfast. Around 350 people marched to Belfast City Hall chanting 'NO WAY - WE WON'T PAY!' and carrying We Won't Pay Campaign placards and banners. A range of speakers representing the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Water Service Trade Union Group, Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network, Communities Against the Water Tax and the Lord Mayor, Tom Ekin, urged people to oppose water charges. Unfortunately however, not one of these speakers clearly called on people to refuse to pay the charges.
In Enniskillen and Cookstown, the We Won't Pay Campaign had solely organised rallies which were well attended. The We Won't Pay Campaign is continuing to set up local groups throughout the North, to organise mass non-payment. This is the key to defeating the charges. That is not to say that protests and demonstrations are useless, they can play an important role in building mass opposition and highlighting the issue.
However, these tactics are of secondary importance to organised mass non-payment. The New Labour government is determined to introduce water charges and privatise the service. They have no votes to be lost in Northern Ireland, and they have already faced down the biggest demonstrations in British history against the war on Iraq.
But that does not mean they cannot be defeated. Mass non payment defeated the Thatcher government over the poll tax. Likewise, non payment defeated the government in the South when they tried to introduce water charges in the 90s. The potential for similar campaigns to be built in Northern Ireland exists today.
The We Won't Pay Campaign is spreading into new areas, with meetings being held in Newry, Omagh, and Enniskillen. In Belfast, meetings are planned in the Tullycarnet, Cregagh, Ballybeen, Donegall Pass, Ravenehill Rd. and the Ballynafeigh areas of the city. New groups have been set up in Dromore, Co.Tyrone, Lisnaskea, Enniskillen, and Downpatrick and more meetings are being planned around the country.
Many people are contacting the We Won't Pay Campaign who want to set up local groups in their own areas. Ian from Newry contacted the campaign in February and is now organising a group there.
He told The Socialist: "I contacted the We Won't Pay Campaign after getting a leaflet in Belfast. A group of friends and neighbours have agreed to help out in establishing the campaign in Newry and we are now organising a public meeting in our estate.
"Some politicians have been in the local media saying they are opposed to water charges, but to me, that isn't enough. The government refuses to listen to the people. What we need is a serious strategy to beat water charges. If everybody sticks together and refuses to pay, the government's plans will fail. That's why we must build the We Won't Pay Campaign in all communities across the North."
WATER CHARGES NEWS...
OVER 50 people attended the We Won't Pay rally held in Enniskillen on 12 Feb. to show their opposition to water charges.
Water service workers and angry householders packed into the Diamond to hear Socialist Party member and We Won't Pay Campaign organiser, Paul Dale, and Benny Cassidy from Fermanagh Trades Council, speak against water charges and the privatisation of the water service.
Paul Dale explained how the introduction of water charges would be a massive attack on working class people, and why a determined campaign must be built to stop the charges. Paul also emphasised that the only way to stop water charges was to build a mass campaign of non-payment and called on everyone to refuse to pay and to join the We Won't Pay Campaign.
Demonstrations and rallies also took place on the same day in Belfast, Derry and Cookstown.
DUP try to suppress the facts....
THE WE Won't Pay Campaign has called on people to challenge the DUP after a disgraceful leaflet accepting water charges from Peter Robinson and Robin Newton was distributed in East Belfast.
Tommy Black, on behalf of the Campaign, wrote a letter to the East Belfast Observer attacking the DUP on this. The DUP were clearly rattled because a week later the paper published a "correction" accepting that there were "inaccuracies" in our letter. So what is the truth? Do the DUP support water charges?
Their leaflet stated; "During the Talks process the DUP sought, and were making progress in negotiating with the PM and Secretary of State, a package which included a mechanism to reduce the impact of the water charge on Northern Ireland's ratepayers... We were also pressing for a longer period for the introduction of the charge."
It is clear from this statement that the DUP have accepted water charges and demanded that water charges be introduced over "a longer period".
Peter Robinson is also quoted in the Belfast Telegraph and on the DUP website saying "We were negotiating a financial package with the Government which would have provided for infrastructure investment and arrangements to ease the introduction of any water charges."
In the DUP document Water Charging, it states "a link to property values would seem to be the fairest way to determine the level of water charges."
Maybe Peter and Robin, instead of using legal threats to silence the truth, would like to explain to the people of East Belfast, how water charges can be in any way fair when we already pay for water through our rates!
... and so do the Rate Collection Agency
AFTER BEING challenged at the so-called "consultation" meetings around the North, senior civil servant, David Sterling was forced to admit that householders already pay for water through the rates. But David must have forgotten to pass on this information to his colleague Alastair Newell in the Rates Collection Agency.
The Socialist Party has obtained a memo to all RCA staff from Mr Newell which shows the RCA are attempting to pull the wool over people's eyes. The memo states; "Following proposals to introduce domestic water and sewerage charges, areas of the media, other organisations and members of the public have argued that this will be a 'double tax' as they are already paying for water and sewerage through their rates. To support the claim the contents of the RCA website have been quoted."
Prior to 16 February, the RCA website listed water and sewerage as services funded through the regional rate. The memo states that the website has been amended because it was "misleading" and states that people do not pay for water through the rates. An outright lie! The Stalinist bureaucracy of the Soviet Union would no doubt have admired this modern day air-brushing of the facts.