A short history of the successful direct action campaign of non-payment which prevented the imposition of charges for water in Dublin, Ireland.
Winning the water war
When the domestic rates were abolished in 1977 following the general election an increase took place in income tax and Value Added Tax. The money made from these increases was to be used to fund the local authorities, who had previously relied on the domestic rates for their funding. Central government was to pay a rate support grant to Local Authorities. This rate support grant increased until 1983 when the then Fine Gael and Labour government decided to cut this grant and brought in legislation to allow the councils to levy service charges.
So though people were effectively paying more taxes, less of this money made its way to local councils, so they were asked to pay more money in the guise of ‘service charges’. 87% of all the tax paid in Ireland was by the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) worker. This was a massive amount of money especially when contrasted to the fact that many multi-national companies are attracted to Ireland for exactly the opposite reasons, because they have to pay relatively small amounts of tax. This aspect of the charge – workers being double taxed while big corporations had an easy ride – is what made this campaign so important.
The son of rates
In the 1980s resistance in Dublin led to the scrapping of the first attempt to introduce a water tax in the city. Other successful campaigns took place in Limerick and Waterford. In Waterford also, around the Paddy Browne Road a gang of contractors who were cutting off non-payers were held hostage by residents and Waterford Glass workers.
In other counties the charges continued and by 1993 the amount expected to be paid by a household varied from one county to another from around £70 to £235 per year.
The water charge is born
The writing was on the wall that a new charge was about to be levied on the people of Dublin when on January 1st 1994 Dublin County was divided into three new County Council areas. Fingal, South Dublin, and Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown were created and they all had to strike a rate which they would then be charged to each household for the water service. The existence of three new areas made it easier to administer the charge on each household.
All the councillors had been elected on the basis that they opposed this charge. However when the time came to show their opposition they stalled before striking a rate. In South County it was £70, in Fingal it was £85, in Dun Laoighaire/Rathdown it varied from £50 to £93.
The sorry excuse that arose on the occasion of all these politicians proving themselves to be liars was that they were forced to strike a water charge rate or else the government would dissolve the council. In just a short space of time nearly all the elected councillors, faced with the realities of holding power, went from opposing water charges to imposing water charges.
In the spring 1994 issue the paper of the anarchist group Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) Gregor Kerr wrote “Householders and residents in Dublin should immediately prepare to resist these charges. If nobody pays, they will be impossible to collect.” Over the summer of 1994 political opposition to these water charges was drummed up as many public meetings were held all over the county. Members of Militant Labour (now known as the Socialist Party), the WSM and many others worked at leafleting information about the forthcoming charge. Realising this first charge was the thin end of the wedge they showed what had happened when similar charges were imposed in the other cities, towns and county areas. The water charges had soon developed into a service charge and now households were facing annual bills from their local councils in excess of £100…………………………………….
full article at source: http://libcom.org/history/1993-1996-the-dublin-fight-against-water-charges