New Song: They’re Stealing Our Water

Black n Tans lorry plus RIC
British colonial police in Ireland, Auxilliaries and RIC in Dublin raid during War of Independence 1920 or 1921.
Cromwellian Massacre at Drogheda
Drawing depicting Cromwellian troops massacre at Drogheda 1649

A little bit rough in places but think I should get it out now and hopefully get people singing it ASAP.  I am surprised no-one seems to have used this tune, The Sea Around Us, and the mention of “water”, already.  Thanks to Ruairi O’Broin at the February session of Song Central for suggesting the “bank guarantee” line in the chorus, much better than what I had there originally.

Amended a little again since I wrote the above but still not sat down and really consistently worked at it.  Amended yet again slightly in 2020.


Diarmuid Breatnach (To the air of “The Sea Around Us”, also known as “The sea, Oh the sea”)


The sea, oh the sea, a ghrá gheal mo chroí,

‘though long it may roll between England and me,

We’ve still got our gombeens* with a bank guarantee

and they’re trying to steal our own water!

(The chorus can go in after each verse, or each second, as people prefer).


The Norse came to Ireland right outa’ the blue,

took us as slaves and plundered and slew;

But their days were all numbered from Clontarf they knew

— they never troubled us much for the after.


Then the English came over our patience to try,

our land for to steal and our culture deny

And they took all that we had … I tell you no lie —

but at least they left us our water!


‘Twas many a hard battle with the English we fought,

as used be our wont and indeed so we ought;

but as time went by, it all came to naught

and they put poor aul’ Éire in a halter.


But we rose up once more and again and again —

we had stalwart youth and women and men;

We fought them in city and mountain and glen

and forced them their plans for to alter.


Then those who at our struggle took fright

stepped in and took over the fruits of our fight;

The Gombeens and Church turned our dawn into night

and in a wink we were back under the halter!  


The parasites live off our sweat and our blood — 


they’d tax the very air that we breathe if they could;

But our media says to resist is not good …

and compliance would get us much further.


Our resources are for the people to share in —

is linne ar fad é, uisce na hÉireann;

and it’s now the baton and prison we’re darin’ —

they’ll not steal from our sons and our daughters!


The people are standing firm and steady —

they know that we’ve paid for the water already!

Our banners unfurled and more things ready:

You can be sure this time we won’t falter!

February 2015.

Dennis O Brien
Denis O’Brien, a billionaire widely believed to have plans to buy Irish Water if/when it becomes privatised. He is a major shareholder in Sierra Construction, the company installing water meters and also in Independent Newspapers. The Moriarty Tribunal found that he had benefited from information from the Irish Minister for telecommunications whom O’Brien had paid €50,000 through circuitous channels. The information had assisted him in bidding for the mobile phone contract, which he later sold at a personal profit of €317 a few years later.
Brian Cowen
Brian Cowen, former Taoiseach (equivalent to Prime Minister) in the Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition Government 2011, which began the bank bailout.
Joan Burton angry maybe
Joan Burton (Labour), Minister for Social Protection in the Labour-Fine Gael coalition Government at time of writing


Enda Kenny winking
Enda Kenny (Fine Gael), Taoiseach (equivalent to Prime Minister) in the Labour-Fine Gael coalition Government at time of writing



Water Tax Demo crowd

* “Gombeen”, from the Irish “Gaimbíneach” is a profiteer, a venal person, a moneylender, a capitalist.

One thought on “New Song: They’re Stealing Our Water

  1. water privatisation

    Irish water levy protests escalate
    Published: 18/11/2014 – 11:03 | Updated: 18/11/2014 – 11:041

    Alan Kelly at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany. 23 May 2013. [International Transport Forum/Flickr]
    The constituency office of the Irish minister overseeing unpopular new water charges received a bomb threat on Monday (17 November), the latest escalation in Ireland’s most serious anti-austerity protests to date.
    Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against the government’s plans to levy direct charges on households to use water for the first time next year.
    The water charges are the final piece of a €30 billion austerity drive that has cut spending by almost 20% of annual output since 2008, but they have provoked the biggest response of any measure.
    While Ireland is forecasting GDP growth of 4.7% this year, the fastest in the euro zone, the protesters say ordinary working people are not feeling the benefits, but have suffered disproportionately from austerity.
    Government ministers have been heckled at protests in recent days and Environment Minister Alan Kelly said a worker at his constituency office had received the telephone threat on Monday.
    “This was a very traumatic and upsetting experience,” Kelly, a minister with the centre-left Labour Party, the junior partner in government, said in a statement.
    Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton was trapped in her car for two hours on Saturday by a crowd including a recently elected member of parliament who is calling for a boycott of the charges.
    Video footage from the protests showed her being hit by a balloon filled with water. She required a police escort to leave the scene.
    Police in County Cork also began an investigation after two vans belonging to the local council were set on fire overnight. Images posted online showed the vans were marked as water service vehicles.
    After months of uncertainty and increasing opposition, the government says the charges being unveiled on Wednesday will be lower than previously flagged, and will be fixed for a number of years.
    Press reports have indicated that the government may cut the maximum charges from over €400 per year for some families to closer to €200.

    Dear Mr. Rehn,
    As a member of the ‘Troika’, the European Commission (with the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank) has been responsible for setting the loan conditions for Greece, Portugal and other countries receiving rescue loans in the context of the sovereign debt crisis. These conditions, which have been widely criticised for the emphasis on cutting public budgets, include in the cases of Greece and Portugal large-scale privatisation of public services, including water utilities. We believe that this privatisation conditionality is unacceptable and seriously undermines the right to water.
    The fact that the Commission (as part of the Troika) has insisted on the privatisation of water utilities also appears to be in violation of the EU’s supposed neutrality on the question of public or private ownership and management of collective water services (article 345 TFEU and Art. 17 1 of the Directive 2006/123/EC on services in the internal market).1
    In the case of Portugal, the Troika’s conditions include the privatisation of the state-owned water company, Aguas do Portugal. For Greece, the Troika package includes a long list of companies that
    the country has to sell off, including the water companies for Athens and Thessaloniki.
    The argument is that these privatisation measures will create income that can be used to repay government debt while the private sector continues to deliver the service. This is indefensible in a crisis situation as the companies will be bought at their market value and not their assets value. In Thessaloniki, the company is a net contributor to the city’s budget, while the redemption price of the 40% capital and management rights being forcibly sold will amount to only three years of profit. As the new report “Our Right to Water – case studies on austerity and privatisation in Europe” shows, the real-world experience with privatisation of water is very different:
    “Services get worse, jobs are lost, and private monopolies enjoy inflated profits for decades, while the amount of money paid by the private buyers is invariably far below expectations. It is not good economics.”2
    In a context where harsh austerity measures have led to income loss, job losses and widespread poverty, privatisation (typically leading to higher prices and undermining access to services) directly threatens the right to water.3 The report also demonstrates that these privatisation measures have been imposed from above despite widespread public opposition, in violation of the right to public participation in decision-making about water and sanitation services.
    The privatisation programmes are being imposed at a time when the appetite for water privatisation among municipalities is at a long-time low because of the disappointing experiences throughout Europe and around the world. An increasing number of cities are choosing remunicipalisation, having tried privatisation, including Paris, which has experienced lower prices and improved services as a result.4
    Imposing top-down water privatisation in the context of a deep economic crisis is not only flawed socially and economically but reveals undemocratic policy-making concerning the most vital public service of all. By imposing privatisation of water utilities (as part of the Troika) on Member States, the European Commission appears to be violating EU legislation and the subsidiarity principle, an approach, which the European Court of Justice would likely condemn.
    It is in this context that we ask you to guarantee that the European Commission withdraws such demands and refrains from any further pressure to impose water privatisation conditionalities on Greece, Portugal and any other country that might enter negotiations with the Troika in the future. Similarly, outside the Troika, the European Commission has been putting pressure on Italy and
    perhaps other countries (in the context of the structural reform programmes) to privatise local public utilities, including those providing drinking water and sanitation. For the reasons noted above, this pressure is flawed, undemocratic, at odds with the EU treaties and should be terminated immediately.
    We look forward to your response. Yours sincerely,
    Água é de todos (Portugal) Aquattac
    ATTAC Hungary
    ATTAC Spain
    Berliner Wassertisch (Germany)
    Blue Planet Project
    Coordination Eau Ile de France Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) Council of Canadians
    La Coordination Rhône-Méditerranée des Associations des Usagers de l’Eau (CRAUE) Ecologistas en Accion (Spain)
    European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)
    Food and Water Europe
    France Libertés
    Gemeingut in BürgerInnenhand (Germany) Ingenieres Sin Fronteras (Spain)
    Italian Forum of Water Movements Movement 136 (Greece)
    Transnational Institute (TNI)
    Wasser in Bürgerhand (Germany)
    Za Zemiata (Bulgaria)
    1. Article 345 of the EU Treaties (ex Article 295 EC) requires the Commission to be neutral on public or private ownership of companies: “The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.” Article 345 TFEU (ex Article 295 EC)
    2. Our Right to Water – Case studies in Austerity and privatization in Europe, ed. by D. Hall and M. Karunananthan, Blue Planet Project, EPSU, PSIRU, Food and Water Europe
    3. As recognised by the 2001 European Charter on Water Resources and the July 2010 United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the right to water and sanitation.
    4. Remunicipalisation – Putting water back into public hands, ed. by M. Pigeon, D. McDonald, S. Kishimoto and O. Hoedeman, Municipal Services Project, Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory, March 2012.


    Click to access letter_to_the_commission_on_water_privatization_conditionalities.pdf

    Hall urged the EU to reconsider its support for privatisation. He and colleagues at the Public Services International Research Unit published a report in August noting that despite the promoted advantages of private operations,

    Click to access 2012_Water_companies-EWCS.pdf


    Click to access RTW-Europe-1.pdf

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