On 19 November the Irish government granted some concessions on water charging, in an attempt to quell a wave of increasingly heated protests and demonstrations.
Tánaiste Joan Burton had her car surrounded by protestors in Dublin, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny faced a hostile reception at an event in Sligo.
Under the new proposals, announced by Environment Minister Alan Kelly, households will be liable for charges of €160 for single adult homes and €260 for all other homes, capped until January 2019. Water conservation grants of €100 a year will also be available, as an incentive to sign up to Irish Water.
However, the carrot comes with a stick. At the same time, it emerged that local authorities will be given increased powers to hike rents or evict tenants if they do not pay.
The concessions in effect mean that the government will have to increase its subsidy to Irish Water to make up the shortfall – lending weight to the argument that the whole scheme should simply be scrapped.
Protests in some areas are continuing, with a major anti-water charges demonstration planned in Limerick. Ireland’s largest union, SIPTU, remains opposed, with its National Executive Council saying that the charges regime “remains regressive in character”.
The concessions show that the government is increasingly weak, and the Irish political class is rattled.
A recent poll, taken just before the latest charging announcement, showed both Fine Gael and Labour well below their levels of support at the general election, and independents reaching 30% support.