Tens of thousands of people rallied against new water bills in Dublin on Saturday in Ireland's biggest anti-austerity protest for years as a candidate calling for a boycott of the charges was elected to parliament in a by-election.
After years of free water services, the centre-right coalition has decided to charge households hundreds of euros from the start of next year, an unpopular move just 18 months before the next election where the government parties hope to be rewarded by voters for an economic upturn.
Ireland has seen relatively few protests compared to other bailed-out euro zone members such as Greece and Portugal, but Saturday's protesters said the water charges were a step too far.
"There is absolute fury against what the government has imposed on the people,'' said Martin Kelly, 50, a rail worker holding a placard calling for the government to ``stop the great water heist."
"They say this is the last bit, but it's the hardest. People can't take any more,'' he said.
Since completing an international bailout last year, Ireland has been bucking the trend in Europe's stalled economic recovery, with the government forecasting gross domestic product to grow by 4.7 percent this year.
The improvement has allowed the government to promise its first budget without any new austerity measures in seven years on Tuesday, but opposition groups say working people are not feeling the upturn.
More than one in 10 are unemployed and more than 100,000 mortgage holders in arrears in a population of 4.6 million.