It was the morning of the 1st November 2014, my youngest son’s 21st birthday, but he was far away trying to earn his corn on some foreign field. I had just come back from South Africa, where for three weeks I and four friends had been following in the footsteps of the Connaught Rangers, our local regiment in the British Army that were disbanded in 1922 on Irish Independence. We had travelled through KwaZulu Natal, the Orange Free State and Cape Province and I was very tired after a non-stop journey home of 34 hours duration, but more of that in the coming days.
Over breakfast that morning Helen told me that there was going to be a water charges protest meeting at 1.30pm that afternoon in town. I warmed to the idea and determined to go as Irish Water had been my bete noire since early March this year when I forbade them installing a new smart meter on my house supply line. They insisted and I resisted and they insisted and I resisted and the Garda were called and I resisted, telling the Garda chap my prison of choice would be Castlerea rather than Mountjoy because it would be easier for my beloved to visit me and they all insisted and I resisted and then they desisted and by then it was late April and the circus left the town leaving me meterless.
Now to get my position straight, I know how much, the gathering, filtering and supply of good clean water costs and I have no objection to paying for the cost of this infrastructure which enables every household in the country to avail themselves of its benefits. However what I do object to is the installation of these insidious smart meters that tell Irish Water boffins in Dublin and Cork how many times a day I empty my bowels whilst at the same time giving off electro-magnetic radiation that can affect the mental health of our young and the physical health of pregnant women. I also object to the State poisoning our supplies with the introduction of fluoride into our water which they have been doing for the last 54 years whilst the water was free but are continuing to do so and charging us for the privilege of giving us a smart set of gnashers whilst filling our bodies with carcinogens which are meant to lower our mental and physical health.
Irish Water have to get their product fit for purpose just like any company going to market but unfortunately cannot rid chrytospiridium from our supplies because of a lack of a proper filtration system which should have been their No 1 priority. Instead they have decided to spend €3.5 billion on the introduction of these meters, a cart before the horse, arse about face situation for this semi-state mistake instead of upgrading their antiquated infrastructure first. So until it is fit for purpose no way can I pay for “piss” as our ex-TD, Luke Ming Flanagan memorably called the product in the Dail.
Anyway Helen and my good self presented ourselves at the proposed meeting place for protest, the car park on Shop Street at 1.30pm. I expected 20-30 people at best, because for the last eight months I thought myself a lone voice of protest. I was measurably surprised as there were around 100 people in quiet conversation and looking round there were dozens approaching along every street. Within 10 minutes the 100 had grown to 500 and I was warming to my adopted town, I had never realised how strong a voice they had, they had taken enough and now it was time for retribution. By the time we marched off another 100 had joined the fray with pedestrians lending their support as they followed the march, 25% of the population turning out in protest.
There was no traffic control as we linked arms in a show of solidarity and marched off. Passing motorists having to stop when confronted by this superb gathering but they seemed to be at one with our aims and there was no hassle. I remarked that I saw no priest, politician or policeman whereas the lovely lady who had linked arms with me said she had seen a Fianna Fail politico in the car park but I suggested he was there to observe and report back rather than walk, I certainly did not see him on the march.
Certainly all the political acolytes were missing plus all the social hierarchy of the town who had been leading Boyle backwards for the last 50 years. The situation and atmosphere was crying out for an independent leader to take over Ming’s position. Boyle needs independent leadership to thwart these arcane, fraudulent, self-serving Fianna Failers and Fine Gaelers that have brought the town to its knees for the last number of years. Toeing the party line was not de rigueur in this situation as news came in from the country that the honest burghers of every town in Ireland had offered up their Saturday afternoon to see that fair play will take place and that the political system was in disarray. The people’s voice was being heard and we all agreed we did not want the bandwagon jumpers of Sinn Fein anywhere near us. We cannot forget their deeds and we cannot forgive this horrible excuse for a political machine.
So with the dearth of honourable politicians and with the Garda politely staying indoors to let this peaceful protest expend itself and with the priests these days preferring to remain on retreat rather than suffer the spleen of their congregations, we marched and were urged onwards by a van and an old car sporting PA equipment. Now here comes the rub.
When I entered the car park at 1.30pm I saw a man I knew and I asked him who our leaders were. He said there was no leaders. Then all of a sudden this van and car combo drove up filled with scruffy men and women in boots and jeans who appeared to run the show. Typical activists expecting to get their way. Who they were nobody in my immediate circle knew, but from chaos had come organisation, but from whom or from where was the question. Is there some dark force behind this social and political revolution country wide? I do not know but this had not forced the crowd to congregate, this was all done by self will. Each of the assembled wanted to be the last straw to break this political camel’s back and I am certain that that back will be broken soon.
Last night after the country wide protest the political animals of the Fine Gael party gathered at their presidential dinner in the Hilton in Dublin and they must have realised their day is done. Enda Kenny’s reflex reply to enquiring journalists was to state that taxes would rise 4% unless the people kowtow. A typical politicians reply when cornered, designed to put the fear of god into people but these modern day people do not scare easy, their day has come, they have regained their power. Kenny then became placatory and told the press that “in the next number of weeks we will set out what people really want to hear”. Why in God’s name did he not do that before it came to this and what do we want to hear, well no less than no water charges and its doubtful whether this particular policy will be thrown in the bin until Fine Gael self destructs.. The political system has failed us and not for the first time.
I am absolutely proud of the people of Boyle, I am glad to be part of their movement, I am delighted they have found their voice when it mattered. 600 people showing their faces to the world, standing up and being counted. According to early media reports it happened in every small and large town in Ireland. Our day has come, you politicos have got about 18 months to crawl back into your historic woodwork, your day is done and never was that more aptly put when as the hundreds marching strolled down Main Street and turned left into Bridge Street the procession came to an abrupt stop at the old deserted newspaper shop on the corner, like a funeral procession stopping at the house of a deceased on its way to the cemetery. It was once the abode of our local TD, a nice sign of respect for a man that toed the party line.